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Olwen Minford – Guest Blogger

19 July 2015

In 2014 I was very fortunate to be awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship, which enabled me to visit USA and Australia for eight weeks to research “Improving communication training and compassionate care using arts based methods”.

I am an end of life care facilitator and psychotherapist currently working in London. My work has brought me into contact with healthcare staff who profess their difficulty in having conversations, particularly at the end of life. Death is a notoriously difficult subject for most people to discuss and not being open to or able to have conversations with those who are dying can have serious consequences and can result in people feeling increasingly isolated.

To address the need for improved communication I have been applying the arts in end of life care education and using visual art, poetry, creative writing, music and role play to dismantle the taboo around death.

At the International Arts in Health conference in Melbourne and at La Trobe University I was delighted to meet with clinicians, academics, art educators, artists and therapists with similar interests who are leading on innovative evidence based education programmes using the arts that enhance observation skills and improve communication skills.
Visiting hospital Arts in Medicine programmes in both countries and witnessing the profound impact on communication when art, music, dance, writing, poetry, are incorporated into healthcare systems was fascinating. The impact of the amazing art installations at the Royal Children’s hospital in Melbourne and the Arterie programme in Sydney, left me spell bound. Another highlight was accompanying music therapist, Stephan Skov, in The Royal Melbourne Hospital. Stephan’s soothing rendition of “Moondance” by Van Morrison immediately relaxed everyone listening in the oncology ward.

Winston Churchill believed that to travel is to learn. The fellowship findings confirm that the evidence for the value of arts based training in healthcare education is accumulating. My aim is to bring back inspiration and examples of best practice to the UK for the benefit of other healthcare professionals. To read the fellowship report please click here : Improving communication training and compassionate care using arts based methods.


Bio - Olwen Minford

Integrative Psychotherapist and End of Life Care Facilitator.
Olwen Minford is an experienced nurse, trainer and psychotherapist. She began her career in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working in Intensive Care before moving into palliative care and later completing a Masters degree in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy. She has extensive experience facilitating end of life care in care homes, hospital, and community settings in North and East London.

Olwen is especially interested in applying the arts in healthcare and education and her specialist interest is in “Dismantling the Taboo around Death”. She runs experiential workshops incorporating the arts with the aim of fostering an open culture towards discussing death.

In 2014 Olwen was awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship which enabled her to travel to USA and Australia and research “Improving communication training and compassionate care using arts based methods”.

Photo of Olwen Minford