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The Art of Palliative Medicine

Wednesday 30 July 2014 8:08am

art of palliative medicine image
Guests view the range of creative responses to end-of-life on display in the Art of Palliative Care exhibition which opened last night at the Wellington campus. Photo: Lance Lawson.

With the care of an aging population with complex conditions ahead of them, learning the skills of palliative medicine is key for medical students of today. Students at the University’s Wellington campus have seized a unique opportunity to express this learning creatively.

Their creative response to meeting a dying patient at Mary Potter Hospice was honoured and celebrated at an Art of Palliative Medicine exhibition at the Wellington campus last night. Organised by the campus’ palliative care teaching team for fourth year medical students, the event followed a very successful first Art of Palliative Medicine display in 2012.

"The visit to a patient at end-of-life can bring a range of emotions, especially if students have had their own losses and a creative outlook seems to work well to reflect on these."

The palliative care teaching programme is a successful, long-standing collaboration between the campus’ Primary Heath Care & General Practice Department, Mary Potter Hospice, Capital and Coast DHB and, from 2014, Te Omanga Hospice.

As part of the programme, students undertake a visit to a patient under the care of either hospice to facilitate communication skill development. Senior Lecturer Eileen McKinlay says the focus of the visit is for students to explore the patient’s experience of being at end of life, what matters most to them and what palliative medicine offers.

Around half of the class of 90 students choose the ‘creative media’ assessment option rather than the formal essay as a means to reflect on the visit, Eileen says.

“Many say it is one of their first chances at Medical School to do something creative, and it allows them to express themselves using a skill they enjoy. The visit to a patient at end-of-life can bring a range of emotions, especially if students have had their own losses and a creative outlook seems to work well to reflect on these.”

The teaching team of Clare O’Leary, (Mary Potter Hospice), Dr Sinead Donnelly (Capital & Coast DHB) and Eileen asked students who chose the creative media option in 2013 and 2014 (to date) to display their work. Around 30 opted to display their poetry, painting, photography, sketching, prose and music.

Kapiti Coast GP and poet Glenn Colquhoun was invited to the event recite his work, speak about the importance of using creative skills to sustain oneself, and to comment on the student work displayed. The exhibition was opened by Dean and Head of the Wellington Campus Professor Sunny Collings, followed by singing from waita group Nga Manu Tioriori. Two students who contributed works also spoke about their experience.