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The art of care - Kirilee West

Wednesday 21 July 2021

The touching moments of care given by healthcare staff to their patients will be explored and captured through a new project made possible by the PA Research Foundation.

The project by PA Hospital (PAH) emergency department nurse and artist Kirilee West will see her paint a number of portraits of health staff and also produce artworks of discarded medical materials such as the paper from medicine boxes.

Made possible by the PA Research Foundation's donors through the Foundations Rethinking Emergency Medicine Awards, the project will eventually result in an exhibition of Kirilee's works, likely to be held in the PAH's main foyer.

The self-taught artist said she aims to use her artwork to display the true impact of moments of care.

Self-taught artist and Emergency Nurse, Kirilee West

"I'm using creative arts to explore staff experiences in the emergency department in providing care for people, as a staff member myself I think when we look at our own experiences, often the truly impactful moments are very hard to quantify and it's those affective moments in care like gestures or an expression or the way you move through a room," she said.

"I think that's where our impact is found and that's where the creative arts can play a really big role in helping us capture and value those moments.

"These moments aren't overlooked from the patient's perspective, and they are not overlooked from their family's perspective and for us as staff members they are poignant for us as well, but I think we're all very good at moving on and getting on with the job and it can be easy to forget that we have deeply impacted people in these small moments and they in turn have impacted us.

"How do you explain those moments or remember six months later I held that person's hand and it made a huge difference to them, in the moment we feel the impact and know the impact and that's what makes us good at what we do, but in terms of a broader way of valuing those moments it's hard to capture those things because they're not black and white."

The nurse of 13 years will recruit subjects from at least three different areas of healthcare provision, such as a fellow nurse, a doctor, and a support member such as a wards person or radiographer and paint their portraits in a small room near the resuscitation area of the PAH.

Kirilee's primary goal is to give people new understandings and new ways to value care at the PA and more widely.

"I hope it impacts how we value creative practices as research methodologies and how we can incorporate them into medicine, but ultimately I want people to feel seen and I want people to look at what we do every day differently and just take a little minute to pause and reflect in the fact that we are deeply impacting people and it does impact on us as well," she said.

Kirilee said PA Research Foundation's Re-thinking Emergency Medicine grants were proof the charitable arm of the PAH thinks outside the box when it comes to improving healthcare through patient and staff support.

"These grants really show that the PA Research Foundation, its board and its supporters look wholistically at how we can perform research and how we can make research accessible to people," she said.

"It's one thing to perform research and have colleagues look at it and be impacted by it but I've always been of the view that we can also impact the general public and there are ways of doing research and expressing research and sharing that knowledge that are more accessible to people.

"There is so much value in using the creative arts in making it accessible, and I'm so grateful to have the support of the PA Research Foundation."

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