Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Hospice Foundation and HSE supporting staff through art

 Hospice Foundation and HSE Supporting Staff Through Art



With the support of the Creative Ireland Programme, the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) has commissioned four artists to develop new creative work in support of the health and well-being of healthcare staff in the HSE.

Creative practice

The pandemic brought many things to people’s attention including the value creative practice plays in people’s lives, and the crucial roles of care staff.  IHF’s Arts & Engagement Programme, founded during the pandemic, has been supporting the role of creative practice for people affected by dying, death and bereavement. It has had a significant positive impact, helping people sense-make when they are bereft.  Now that work will be brought directly to HSE staff to help and support them as they deal with death, dying, and bereavement daily.

Jean Callanan, Chair of IHF, says “Creative Ireland has been supporting us to develop creative practice for people affected by dying, death, and bereavement   We are now delighted to be working with the HSE on supporting the professional care teams who engage with dying, death and bereavement on a daily basis across Ireland. These commissions will focus on supporting these workers and figuring out how creative work can be of value to them in their work.”

Tania Banotti, Director of Creative Ireland says “Creative Ireland’s work continues to demonstrate the relevance of creativity to health, care and wellbeing. We’re delighted to be part of this original initiative by IHF working with the HSE to bring meaningful creative resources to staff in the health care services who might face grief and bereavement in their professional lives. A great example of the value of all of Government approaches delivered locally where they matter”.

Health and wellbeing

The HSE employs about 110,000 people many involved in emotionally demanding work in the four corners of the country. The programme being developed and the artists involved are working virtually to create ‘a thing, a process, a boost’ that the HSE staff can tap into quickly, easily, and at any time of the day to support their health and wellbeing.

Dr. Philip Crowley, National Director of Strategy and Research, HSE  said:

“The HSE recognises that Ireland has some excellent practice in areas where the arts and creativity meets health and wellbeing. Collaborating with Creative Ireland and Irish Hospice Foundation makes it possible to bring diverse expertise together in support of those staff who have done so much over the last two years to support us all. It opens new possibilities for the future as the value of psycho-social and behavioural health intervention grows in line with the Government’s Health and Wellbeing strategies.”

Four artists were selected from 43 applications to work with IHF on the development of creative resources for wellbeing of health care workers. Selection followed a public call-out promoted via peers, collaborations, social media, and art form specific media. Artists were selected on the basis of professional and lived experience, relevance, and understanding of the task ahead and to ensure a mixture of art forms. All are hugely experienced at working with groups. Selected artists are: 

Derval Dunford 

Derval has been creating, designing and teaching since 2006 . She has worked with HSE staff facilitating workshops for Mayo, Roscommon and Galway CNME, and Mayo Mental Health since 2010. In 2020 Derval was commissioned to provide the wellbeing aspect of HSE’s training for frontline staff in Mayo and Roscommon. Since 2021 she has been assisting on trauma-sensitive breathwork programmes with US psychiatrists, researchers and authors Gerbarg & Brown. Her practices are evidence-based and/or research-based, over the years she has presented at many national educational conferences. In recent years Derval’s personal artwork has blossomed, as a result reflection and expression through artwork are now an integral part her wellness programmes 

Rebecca Strain 

Rebecca Strain is a visual artist, writer, curator, and arts project manager currently based in Inishowen where she leads Artlink. An artist-leader of the inaugural Compassionate Culture Network project in Donegal which included creating “Make and Mend” a Facebook group that runs in parallel with face-to-face sessions to reduce threshold hesitation for people curious and apprehensive about creativity and grief. 

Darren Yorke 

A theatre maker and improvisation expert whose “purpose in life is to level the playing field for making meaningful and magical things happen, onstage and off. With a "fail-safe" approach to fearless play” who sets out to actively engage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and is using improvisation and play to nurture joy. 

Derbhile Dromey 

Writer, journalist, poet, playwright based in Waterford has worked with Waterford Healing Arts Trust, National Council for the Blind, Waterford Intellectual Disability Association and the Irish Institute of Celebrants numerous schools and libraries and was Network Ireland Waterford Business Woman of the Year in 2017. In applying she wrote “illness and disability are recurring themes in my artistic work. I am particularly interested in exploring how people cope with illness, beyond the 'brave' stereotype that often prevails in media and popular literature. I would see this project as a way to help healthcare staff tap into their own natural resilience and draw on it for strength when they need it.”