Eleanor Wilson is a Final Year Medical Student at University College London. In our latest #60Voices article, she tells us how creativity can enrich and enhance medical education and practice...

UK medical training, from day one of undergraduate studies to retirement, is notoriously strenuous, hierarchical and demands immense dedication. For many, a clinical career is motivated by the reward of dealing with the human condition in all its ages and forms.

The study of anatomy, physiology and pathology form the key pillars that underpin practice through the entirety of someone’s career. Both traditional and modern education courses require students and doctors to continually advance their knowledge and skills, which serve to update personal portfolios and achieve revalidation. This all sounds didactic. However, medicine is far from black and white.

The deeper underlying skills in medicine relate to the ability to interact with others at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. This requires empathy, humanity and an intrinsic anthropological perspective of the community. Years of strenuous work becomes meaningful and worthwhile. Being reflective and creative can enrich the ability to adapt to scenarios and promote both patient safety and wellbeing. Herein lies the real art of medicine.

So, how should the art of medicine be taught? Skills in communication, sociology and ethics are combined into current medical school curricula to encourage the wider level thinking that is required of a junior doctor. Many medical schools offer special modules in the arts and social sciences to complement training. Additionally, the inclusion of students in Schwartz rounds; structured sessions for medical staff to reflect on social and emotional challenges, is helping nurture the ‘softer’ skills of the profession. In my opinion, there is still gain to be had in promoting the relationship between art and medicine, similar to the work of the Welcome Collection and Reforming Anatomy. Incorporating film, music, abstract and fine art, accompanied by critical thinking, are just a few examples of how medical education and practice can be enhanced.

Workshop run by Hand & Lock at a Reforming Anatomy conference exploring the links between surgical suturing and embroidery.

Workshop run by Hand & Lock at a Reforming Anatomy conference exploring the links between surgical suturing and embroidery.

Dr Deborah Padfield, Lecturer in Arts and Health Humanities, is an artist who has worked with patients and clinicians to research and enhance the role of visual images to aid the communication of pain within medical consultations. Padfield collaborated with patients and teams at St Thomas’ Hospital, leading to a touring exhibition, pilot study and book, Perceptions of Pain. This work is a stunning example of how combining the arts and cross-disciplinary interaction can improve the patient experience.

Much like an artist’s vibrant, creative and dynamic portfolio, I propose that medical training should extend towards a collection of experiences in and out of the hospital setting. Conferences, visiting artist encounters and practical art workshops can provide far-reaching opportunity to complement the artistic practice of medicine. Furthermore, increased flexibility and creativity in learning techniques can boost the productivity of trainees. Professor Roger Kneebone, Director of Imperial College Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science and Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy of Arts, has explored the interplay between improvised jazz music and surgical training. Kneebone campaigns for the inclusion of surgery within the canon of performance scienceand is at the forefront of the amalgamation of the arts with speciality training.

As an individual who is approaching the final moments of undergraduate training, I aspire to campaign for continuing progression and publicity of the arts in medicine. A particularly relevant new project called The Association for Medical Humanities Passport pairs clinical establishments with artists and academics to organise shadowing opportunities. This serves as a great example of schemes that can help pave the future of clinical practice. On a more local and smaller-scale, medical school performances and art exhibitions are helping educate the future generations.

The ultimate end goal is a workforce that is inspired, explorative and engaged in building diverse career portfolios that will supplement high end and holistic patient care.

Find out more about Paintings in Hospitals' art for health and social care…

Celebrating 60 years of Paintings in Hospitals in 2019

Follow #60Voices on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram...

Eleanor Wilson is a final year clinical medical student at University College London who has a first-class honours iBSc degree in neuroscience and has a keen interest in neurology and child health. In addition to her academic studies she teaches anatomy to medical students and has research projects in medical education, epilepsy and child health. Eleanor has pursued her interest in the interplay between the worlds of art and medicine through a variety of channels; she has curated several art exhibitions, works as a medical advisor for Body Worlds London and is a founding member of Reforming Anatomy. Elle believes strongly in the importance of creative methods and thinking in improving patient experience and wellbeing. Find out more on her website and Instagram: @reforminganatomy.