The Art of Healing - SLRON Rathgar

 The Art of Healing - The Staff and Patient Art Wall Launch at St Luke’s

Sinéad Woods

On Wednesday the 18th of September I found myself at the launch of the Staff and Patient Art Wall in St. Luke’s Radiation and Oncology Network (SLRON) in Rathgar. Art in SLRON Rathgar is offered as an activity for patients undergoing treatment because, as Jackie, the Hospital General Manager explains "caring for patients is so much more than treating a tumour". But it is not just the patients that are looked after in SLRON Rathgar. Working in a radiation and oncology unit can be incredibly rewarding and absolutely devastating all in a single shift for staff. The management on-site acknowledge that staff are not immune to this turbulent workplace environment and have gone to every effort to support their staff. Seeing the positive patient reaction to the art classes, the offer was then extended to staff and has so far gone down a treat. On my arrival to the Rathgar unit, I was struck by the calm environment that greeted me. Perhaps I expected an environment full of stress and anxiety in a centre specialising in radiation and oncology treatment but instead what I discovered was something very different. Art’s therapeutic qualities have been instrumental in curating this environment. Art offers patients and staff an escape to help them deal with the highs and lows that goes hand-in-hand with cancer treatment.

An Art Centre is located on the grounds of SLRON in Rathgar and the centre offers activities for both patients and staff. At the Launch I had the pleasure of listening to and experiencing the passion of Artists Emma, Lee and Allison for the work they do in the Art Centre. My tour guides, Michelle and Teri explained that 6 week art courses are run for staff to improve their artistic skills - Jackie proudly displays her Origami Swan on her desk that she made during her course. Through the Art classes, patients and staff are encouraged to find their creativity and it is hoped that they will reignite a childhood passion or maybe discover a talent that has never been tapped into before.

The Art Wall launch

It took all of 2 weeks for the Art Wall to become a reality and the staff are to credit for this Artistic Addition to the halls. Staff, patients and former patients filled the corridor that Wednesday to see the fruits of their labour being launched. The Art Wall was split on this occasion into the staff side and patient side. On the staff side of the Art Wall the paintings cleverly hang from trouser hangers, a functional, yet creative solution to being able to swap in new pieces every few weeks. Soon art patient’s art pieces will hang on the opposite side but at the Launch a patient project, co-ordinated by the Art Centre, was the star of the show.

               Art Wall Launch Rathgar  Staff Art at St Luke's

                              Image 1: The launch of the Patient and Staff Art Wall.                                   Image 2: Pieces of Staff Art making up part of the Staff Art Wall 

“Did you feel Art had an impact on your journey with cancer?”

This was the question patients were asked by Emma and Lee to create this truly powerful display on the Patient Art Wall. Lee sketched the patient as they pondered and described the unique impact art had on their journeys. This display will encourage future patients to take up art but is also a touching tribute to the Art Centre staff and all those who work tirelessly to keep Art alive in SLRON, Rathgar. 

                                                     The Patient Project in St Luke's

Image 3: The Patient Art Project lining the walls of SLRON, Rathgar, highlighting the impact Art had on their journey with cancer

The Patients Perspective

In the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a gentleman proudly posing in front of his likeness. Gary, who I learned was a patient in SLRON Rathgar several months before was part of this project. Gary fondly recalled taking his old paint box to the art classes, a paint box that hadn’t been opened since his school days almost 60 years ago. Gary talked very positively about the time he spent in SLRON Rathgar and then proudly produced several homemade cards with beautifully painted Irish birds (a flamingo did, however, make the cut) to show Emma that he did continue with his hobby.

                                                                                      Gary at the Art Wall Launch

Image 4: Gary, a former patient of SLRON, Rathgar standing in front of his contribution to the Patient Art Project at the Art Wall Launch

I would like to congratulate the Staff and Patients in SLRON Rathgar on such a successful launch and I very much look forward to seeing how it evolves with new pieces over time.