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A Brush With Art Helps the Medicine Go Down!

January 30, 2008 11:49 AM

For the first time in Scotland a hospital renal unit has used creative arts to alleviate the boredom of patients on dialysis.

And the eight week pilot at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock may have uncovered the next Jack Vettriano!

Now a paper by the consultant whose idea it was, Dr Mun Woo, detailing the benefits to patients, has been submitted to this year’s British Renal Society Conference in Glasgow.

Examples of the patients’ art work will also be exhibited at the conference.

The scheme has been so successful that patients were even looking forward to their three times a week, five hour dialysis sessions.

This is despite the challenge of having to paint with one arm, the other being connected to the dialysis machine.

Art lover and locum consultant Dr Woo, said:

“I have an interest in art myself and following a visit to the Glasgow Art Fair last year I visited the stand of the charity ‘Art in Hospital.’

“Following discussions with the organisation, we collaborated to make this project possible. Three professional artists were engaged to tutor patients.”

The patient artists have produced a mixed media collection ranging from watercolours and line drawings, to creating sound recordings by patients with sight problems.

All art have been professionally framed and hung in the corridor leading to the unit, and some might even end up in Glasgow’s House for An Art Lover.

Similar initiatives are in place for geriatric and brain injury patients, but never before in a renal ward.

Dr Woo explained that being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and then starting treatment is a major disruption to a patient’s lifestyle.

She went on:  “Patients can get quite depressed, and the project was aimed to take away that mundane time of being connected to a dialysis machine.

“The first reaction from patients ranged from ‘I’m not very good’ to ‘my last experience of art was at school’.

“But once approached by the professionals, patients became really enthusiastic.  They had something to keep themselves occupied and talk to one another about during treatment.

“I’ve even heard one patient express surprise that their treatment had ended so quickly because they hadn’t finished their picture!”

To guage the benefits patients were asked to fill in a validated Quality of Life questionnaire at the start of the pilot, and again at its end.

Analysis showed a positive improvement in mental well-being of participants:  “It was interesting that our clinical feeling about the project was substantiated by the evidence.  The scheme has really improved their experience of dialysis.”

Dr Colin Geddes, the unit’s lead consultant, has been equally impressed at the affect the project has had on patients: 

“I have been working in dialysis for 15 years and have not seen anything have such a positive impact on patients.

“They have responded so well.  In fact some have said that they are looking forward to coming in for their five hours of dialysis because the art sessions were taking place, and that is unheard of!”

The collection has also produced two calendars for 2008, which have been sold to family and friends to raise funds for the unit.

They have been so popular that one has sold out completely and there is a possibility of a reprint depending on orders.

This project was funded from endowment funds and charitable donations.

For more information contact Susan Carden, Communications Officer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on 0141 201 4429/305 0305.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021