Crafting My Universe with Medical Art
Have you ever imagined that a syringe can turn into a pen, or a medicine bottle can be filled with sand of different colours as a beautiful sand bottle? Dull medical items like medicine cups, medical gloves and surgical caps can transform into an exquisite piece of artwork in the hands of child patients. The making process is also beneficial to them. Why is that so?
What is medical art?
Medical art is a common intervention method of child life specialists. As a response to the stress of child patients in hospitals, medical art inspires their curiosity and creativity, and encourages them to look for the extraordinary in medical items, helping them to cope with the fear and uneasiness associated with these items. Child patients in hospitals are stripped of the power over their own bodies in order to receive treatments. Over time, the passivity deepens their sense of helplessness, which adds up to become an emotional burden. Creative arts empower child patients to think out of the box and overturn common perceptions of medical items, morphing fear and anxiety into fun and self-autonomy.
From the experience of child life specialists, children handle and recover from adversities better than adults. In the face of illness, it is intuitive for them to cry and resist, but it doesn’t mean they are weak. If their family can offer a sense of consolation and security, and if the medical team trust them and let them express themselves, they usually recover well emotionally, sometimes even faster than adults. Living in the moment and leaving tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow, their cheerfulness motivates them through the difficulties, and it is the work of child life specialists to bring out this inner strength in children.
Medical art values the self-initiative in children to creatively craft boring materials into innovative artworks, and helps them rebuild their self-identity in the process of treatment. In the creative realm, children have a say, and they can make their own decisions. Disassembling medical items and reconfiguring them channels the frustration in the medical experience. Finishing an artwork also brings a sense of accomplishment that beats the helplessness in a sickbed.
Is medical art a kind of art therapy?
Medical art is not art therapy. The creative process of medical art does not seek to identify the underlying needs of children. The role of child life specialists is to give children an opportunity to express themselves creatively, to appreciate their openness to communicate, and to have fun with them. Child life specialists facilitate the play and encourage children’s creative juices to flow such that everyone enjoys the fun of art!
Medical Art Book
The Children’s Cancer Foundation has published a Medical Art Book, sponsored by the United Overseas Bank Limited Hong Kong Branch and designed by the Handscript, with the aim of introducing the applications of medical art. Our child life specialists wish to inspire more children by bringing the method to the Chinese society. Dedicated to child patients and the medical staff, the collection gathers 50 works of medical art that hopefully will bring more creativity to the ward!
CCF Newsletter Vol.53 (Feb 2018)