Creative writing and art sessions have been helping patients and staff manage their wellbeing, by allowing them to tell their stories and share experiences.
Overseas nurses working across Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB and patients at Ysbyty’r Seren in Bridgend have benefitted from workshops led by artist Sue Hunt and creative writing facilitator Uschi Turoczy. The first collaborative sessions were held before current lockdown restrictions came into effect.
The creative sessions have been designed to give staff some breathing space away from the stresses of their work, and to help patients in their recovery from Covid-19. Patients and staff alike found the workshops inspiring and enjoyable, with one patient saying it ‘allowed me to do things that I didn’t know I could do.’
The nurses are among 146 colleagues to have joined Cwm Taf Morgannwg from overseas, mostly from India, in the last year, settling into new roles across the Health Board following a period of quarantine. They are being given pastoral support to help them adjust to life in a new country, and the workshop enabled them to express their emotions following their journey to Wales, which involved leaving behind their families, including children.
Sue said: “It was great to hold the workshops and a real pleasure to work with the nurses and hear their individual stories. Uschi and I would love to follow it up with more sessions when we are able.
“The idea was based on an existing poem about a journey. We invited the nurses to write their own version, from their perspective, and there was a great warmth to the camaraderie as they shared their reflections. We provided art materials and card, and they made stand-alone concertina pieces that could be sequential.”
Some of the pieces were extremely poignant, while other were very funny. Sue added: “The aim was to allow the overseas staff a ‘moment’ for themselves outside of the face-to-face work they are doing so quickly after arriving in the UK and self-isolating. Their experience, along with that of all nursing staff across the Health Board, has been challenging, and our aim is to find a space for staff in this increasingly stressful time.”
At a session for patients, one 93-year-old patient requested a drawing lesson in perspective, and asked to keep a diagram drawn by Sue in order to ‘treasure it’ and remember the session. Another patient described taking part in the drawing and writing as ‘fresh and interesting’.
Health staff supporting patients at the workshop also had a chance to join in, engaging in a ‘masks with messages’ activity to write messages of support and hope for their colleagues. Some staff kept their masks, while some masks were put on display in glass cabinets in the hospital foyer.
Sessions for staff and patients were subject to rigorous hygiene measures, with materials being anti-bacterially sprayed regularly and cleaned before each workshop. It is hoped that further activities will be held as soon as it’s again safe to do so.