Emma Barnard – Patient As Paper

Pic1Founded in 2012 by artist Emma Barnard MA (RCA) and ENT consultant surgeon Mike Papesch, FRACS, the ‘Patient As Paper’ project is a collaboration between an artist and surgeons to investigate and demonstrate the patient experience and pathway. It encourages doctors, medical professionals and students to reflect on being a receiver of medical care and its impact on people, giving patients a “visual voice” and reflecting some of the harsh realities people endure in their pursuit of ‘getting better’. It deliberately avoids questionnaires and provides people with a ‘clean slate’ to express their thoughts, fears, aspirations and worries – all part of being in our healthcare system – and draws to attention the degree of depersonalization that inevitably occurs when people are hospitalised.

‘Patient As Paper explores photographically the meanings of silent biomedical artifacts such as notes, scans, micrographs and surgeons’ theatre drawings (be they on paper or skin). By inverting a patient and their notes, using superimposition and image processing, photography forces a critical reflection on patients’ and surgeons’ visions of each other, as objects and people’.

Chris McManus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education, UCL

The results of this collaboration are being shown in the touring exhibition ‘Patients As People’. Patients were invited to illustrate, through words or pictures, what the experience of being within the hospital environment felt like. The exhibition is currently installed in Ashford Hospital and further venues are being considered. If you are interested, please contact Emma through her website, twitter or the Facebook site.

Justine Thompson, Macmillan Patient and Public Involvement Lead, East of England Cancer Clinical Network, says: ‘Some of the pictures show outward serenity – but the self-authored graffiti often tells another story. These photographs are a graphic reminder that every person’s health story is as unique and individual as they are and that every encounter with a healthcare professional is likely to be an unwelcome voyage into the unknown.’

Reflection on these images invites the doctor and other healthcare professionals to consider what the patient is expressing about their care. Some images are very literal, others less so. It is not so important that the viewer understands exactly what the patients themselves are thinking; the challenge for healthcare providers is to allow themselves the opportunity to ponder these images and, as a result, consider, in a novel, visual and artistic way, how the patient experience can affect us all.

Alongside critical care consultant Stephanie Strachan and medical student Katharine Stambollouian, Emma Barnard is involved in a pilot project to introduce the use of the visual arts into the medical curriculum as a vehicle for developing empathy and resilience in medical students.

The ‘Patient As Paper’ work has been presented to healthcare, medical humanities and art audiences within hospitals, universities and at conferences; these have included the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo, dotMED, Dublin and most recently the ‘Inspiring Future Leaders’ event hosted by the NHS Leadership Academy. Emma will be presenting at the Critical Voices conference this June: http://www.criticalvoices.org.uk/critical-voices-2016.html


Twitter – @PatientAsPaper

Facebook: Emma Barnard Artist

Guardian Healthcare Network – online gallery: http://gu.com/p/4d845/stw

BMJ Medical Humanities – The Reading Room – Patients As People: http://go.shr.lc/1VP8RBu