Innovative Exeter Nursing Students Art exhibition on display at St Luke’s Campus

Detangling hairstory (history) in nursing by Beatrice Ogbekhiulu - © Beatrice Ogbekhiulu

Visitors are invited to a fascinating exhibition on the 14th of December which debuts original artworks created by undergraduate students from the University of Exeter’s Academy of Nursing.

From painting, poetry and creative writing to graphic medicine, collage and sculpture, the exhibition was born out of an innovative new third year module called ‘The Art and History of Nursing’. Thought to be the only module of its kind in the country, it draws upon a range of literature, historical information and artistic mediums to help nursing students understand more about nursing history and lived experience of health, illness and caring for others.

The module fosters an interdisciplinary approach to learning by encouraging the students to think more creatively about the representations of health and illness. This has seen the students collaborate with a diverse range of practice partners, charity organisations, primary care professionals, and University departments including chaplaincy, classics and ancient history, medical humanities, and medical history.

Through this they have explored how the creative arts may offer an outlet to express emotions and experiences which may be otherwise hard to understand or verbalise. The resulting exhibition touches on this, reflecting each student’s creative learning journey and how they feel their artwork may have impacted upon their own and wider nursing practice, perceptions, compassion and empathy.

Senior Lecturer at the Academy of Nursing and module leader 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 for pushing our student nurses to think outside the box in 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 aspects which they may not have considered previously such as discrimination, stigma, shame and professionalism.

Fourth year University of Exeter Nursing Student Kirsty Cracknell whose acrylic painting depicts the transition of a terminally ill patient from clinical to palliative care through the striking imagery of a horse riding through two worlds said: “I’m excited to be part of the exhibition and the module. It’s a great chance to explore the inner worlds of our patients using keen observation and contemplation. My hope is that it encourages people in our professional practice to consider using art as a reflective tool when caring for our patients.”

Professor Ann Gallagher, Head of Nursing at the University of Exeter, said: “This innovative module enables students to better appreciate nursing as an art and a science, to develop knowledge regarding the development of the profession and skills in ethical sensitivity. The public exhibition showcases students’ creativity and ability to represent their commitment to care.

“It also stimulates reflection and important conversations regarding the privilege and challenges of contemporary nursing. I’m proud that our MSci Nursing Programme includes this module which raises the profile and impact of care and students’ creative capabilities.”

‘The Art and History of Nursing’ exhibition will be held on 14 December at Baring Court room 03 in University of Exeter’s St Luke’s Campus between 10am and 12 noon. Entry is free, and all are welcome. Find out more about the event here.

Please note that the exhibition contains some challenging themes such as cancer, racism and abortion, which some might find distressing.