Art in Health
16 March 2012 Last updated:
7 September 2014
Art in Health
Arts/Humanities intervention in undergraduate health education
By Paul Bennett, Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, University of Sydney
and James Giddey, West Darling Arts
The Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH) has worked in partnership with West Darling Arts for the past two years to link Art/Humanities and Health in undergraduate health science student education through the Enhanced Rural/Remote Interprofessional Cultural Health (ENRICH) program.
ENRICH was developed to meet the clinical needs of students on placement in Broken Hill through an inter-professional learning framework; however it became apparent that this program could do more for students on placement in Broken Hill. Within this context, key principles of community engagement and social inclusion were used to inform the development of the Art in Health program.
During their placement in far west New South Wales (NSW), undergraduates are immersed in community, and live, work and study for extended periods in Broken Hill and the surrounding region. The Art in Health program provides inter-professional learning opportunities for health science students of all disciplines to participate in learning that compliments the requirements of the individual student's curricula.
Program sessions are facilitated by local artists in the far west region of NSW and to date have included life drawing, photography, Aboriginal art, creative writing and art observation (at the Regional Art Gallery).
Most Art in Health sessions occur outside the clinical teaching environment at BHUDRH. Session design enhances the gap between clinical and non-clinical education, and enhances health science student's ability to recognise and appreciate the non-clinical aspects of healing, and broaden their appreciation of the holistic nature of health care.
The sessions are designed to provide a fresh approach to teaching generic skills such as communication, rapport, observation, interpretation and analysis of issues early in the student's career development. Attendance and participation in the ENRICH programme is voluntary, and of the 40 sessions per year over two semesters 8 sessions are art/humanities based.
Post evaluation survey of each Art in Health session from the undergraduate's perspective using a Likert scale ranging from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree) has been positive:
- 90% of responders agreed that the session helped them develop valuable generic attributes (communication, self-reflection and questioning skills – based on evaluation question criteria)
- 79% moderately to strongly agree that they felt confident to use the skills developed during the sessions in their day-to-day practice
"I found this workshop very therapeutic for myself. I would integrate life skills into my professional practice as personal diversion from clinical work."
"Perceiving the body as more than an object to be diagnosed."
Results of this pilot program have been reported at a number of conferences nationally and internationally. The Art in Health Program won the International Award for Excellence 2011 - Medical Humanities, at the 3rd International Arts and Health Conference, Canberra in 2011, and is the recipient of a grant from Regional Arts Fund (NSW).
In 2013 the attendance rates remain constant at approximately 10 per session. The post session evaluation is still positive.
The Art in Health Program adds value to the learning experience of undergraduate health science students and promotes a sense of community and connection to the region. The Art in Health Program has forged links between the local art community and health science students, and has drawn local people into the training of metropolitan based health professionals.
The program plans to implement an artist in residence in 2014 to follow on from the current pilot running in the Broken Hill Health Service. The new program will see up to 6 artists work in the Health Service, the Regional Art Gallery and the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health.
For more information on ENRICH see:
Keryn Bolte, Paul Bennett, Malcolm Moore, ENRICHing the rural clinical experience for undergraduate health science students: A short report on inter-professional education in Broken Hill, Australian Journal of Rural Health, Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 42–43, February 2012.
Primary Health Care, Health Education Officer
Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, Sydney Medical School
PO Box 457
Broken Hill, NSW 2880
Phone: 08 8080 1200
Broken Hill Health Service, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and local artists who facilitate workshop sessions.
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