In 2022, the Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Society at the University of Chester in partnership with the Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning, trailed a creative placement for undergraduate student nurses. Sixty Year 1 Bachelor of Nursing undergraduate students from all four fields of nursing were allocated either a six- or five-week creative health placement as part of their practice learning experience.

After induction, students worked with four experienced artists from three disciplines; dance, music, and visual arts. All students explored creative health practices through experiential process. Students also helped facilitate a creative health café, supported the artists on a daily creative health project with members of the public, experienced the creative health activity as participants and visited social prescribing offers in the area. Each week the students had time for reflection and action learning, and to meet their practice supervisor (a Nursing and Midwifery Council requirement).

Through the placement students came to appreciate the benefits of creative health both for their practice and for their own health and wellbeing. For example, one stated;

“I was dreading the placement at the start and was ignorant to how it would help. At the end I could see how important it is in providing person-centred care that continues beyond the clinical setting.”

Students reported increased confidence, and self-awareness, greater ability to network and the ability to communicate more effectively and were more reflective. They saw the value of holistic care and the importance of a non-medicalised approach as well as how this experience would impact on their future practice. They also had a greater appreciation of the community benefits of social prescribing.

In the academic year 2022-2023, all year 1 bachelor of nursing students have undertaken this placement, a total of 450 students. In response to feedback from the pilot a wider range of artists have been used, and links made to themes such as mother and baby and dementia. Links to social prescribing providers have been formalised and local organisations have been invited to participate in the creative health cafe. This year the placement has received national recognition by winning the Student Nursing Times Awards for Student Placement of the Year: Community.

Significant groundwork was necessary for this placement. In addition to recruitment of artists, partners and practice assessors, a programme aim linked to creative health was written and approved at validation in 2020. The learning and teaching philosophy of the programme acknowledged the integration of arts and humanities and provided direction on how this could be implemented, such as experiential learning and assessment. An asset map of all social prescribing in the area was completed and a mapping exercise was conducted to ensure that students undertaking this placement would be able to achieve practice assessment requirements.

Platform two of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Future nurse standards (2018) “promoting health and preventing ill health” highlights the importance of improving and maintaining mental, physical, behavioural health and wellbeing of people and populations but it does not stipulate registrants need to engage in creative health. An addendum to these standards would ensure all nurse educator providers helped facilitate widespread creative health education.

Photo Credit: University of Chester Creative Health Choir ©
Photo Credit: University of Chester Creative Health Choir ©

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