Nursing students’ work features in Exeter art exhibition depicting the history of care

'Angel' by Hannah Tucker. Image © Hannah Tucker

Visitors are invited to an exhibition of the art and history of care at St Luke’s campus on 14 February, featuring original artworks developed as part of a course at the University of Exeter’s Academy of Nursing.

This year’s exhibition showcases work from students alongside work from others involved with the innovative ‘Art and History of Nursing’ module, which aims to help students understand more about the history of healthcare and lived experience of health, illness and caring for others.

From painting, poetry and creative writing to sketch noting, collage and sculpture, the exhibition draws upon a range of literature, historical information and artistic mediums to explore the way in which the creative arts may offer an outlet to express emotions and experiences which may be otherwise hard to understand or verbalise.

Now in its second year, the module fosters an interdisciplinary approach to learning by encouraging participants to think more creatively about representations of health and illness. This has seen participants collaborate with a diverse range of practice partners, charity organisations, primary care professionals, patients and University departments including chaplaincy, education, and medicine.

Heidi Garner, 3rd year MSci Nursing student, whose canvas depicting women’s health features in the exhibition, said: “Studying the art and history of nursing has enabled me to explore nursing themes in a different light. Exploring women’s health, in particular breastfeeding and displaying this as an art piece, has helped me to appreciate what we could do to better understand our patients and how we can deliver better patient care. I will use the creative aspect of this module as a method of starting new, often difficult, conversations, with my patients and encourage them to express themselves however they wish to.”

Also included in the exhibition are two paintings by Captain George Harrill from the 243 (Wessex) Multi-role Medical Regiment, who supported a seminar on artistic approaches. Captain Harrill has served as a combat medical technician in the Army for 41 years, and his work demonstrates the healing effects of art – in particular helping him to deal with stress following traumatic experiences during his military career.

Captain Harrill said: “I’ve found creating the artwork to be beneficial both to my own mental health and for others. I created one of my paintings for a colleague dealing with PTSD, and he says this has had a healing effect as it puts him in a good place, giving him to something to focus on as he comes to terms with some of his difficult memories.”

A piece of artwork developed in collaboration with Hospiscare, including patients, staff, carers, and student nurses, will also be on display on the 14th. The large artwork was developed at a workshop in January, with each participant decorating a leaf to join together and create a large Hospiscare ‘tree’, which will be on display in the Hospice in Exeter after the exhibition.

As part of the exhibition the public will be encouraged to respond to the artworks displayed with creative stations on themes such as palliative care, spirituality, and women’s health.

Senior Lecturer at the Academy of Nursing and module leader Dr Marie Clancy said: “I hope when visitors come to our exhibition, they realise how hard we work in caring for our patients. Enhancing the compassionate and holistic care offered to patients is our motivation to think creatively when considering different perspectives of health and caring.

“By exploring challenging themes such as racism, abortion and cancer, the students have been encouraged to look beyond the ordinary facets of health and think about aspect which they may not have considered previously such as discrimination, stigma, shame and professionalism.”

The ‘Inspiring New Perspectives’ exhibition will be held on 14 February at Baring Court room 03 in University of Exeter’s St Luke’s Campus between 10:00-12:00. Entry is free, and all are welcome.