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Spotlight: Arts Committee in University Hospital Limerick

Date posted: 1 May 2018

Image shown: Mary Liston, Assistant Director of Nursing, Cancer Services Business Unit at UL Hospitals Group, with Grainne Hope and Liam Merriman of Kids' Classics.

This month’s Spotlight is on the Arts Committee in University Hospital Limerick. Mary Liston, Assistant Director of Nursing, Cancer Services Business Unit at UL Hospitals Group, is a member of the Committee and tells us about the programme of cultural activities being developed within the hospital. 

Who we are

I have been a member of the Arts Committee in University Hospital Limerick since 2016. The members of the Arts Committee recognise that art in its various guises plays a significant role in enriching the lives of service users and staff alike. The aim of the Arts Committee is to transform the hospital environment into a stimulating space and provide access to contemporary arts and design.

One of our objectives is to develop an annual plan to encompass visual art exhibitions, music and performance.

Since 2015, there has been a collection of paintings on loan from Prof. Paul Finucane – ‘The Old Pier, Union Hall’ – which includes works from well-known artists such as Arthur Maderson, Robert Ballagh and Martin Gale amongst others. These paintings are on display along the corridor leading from the Main Hospital Reception to the OPD (Out Patient Department) and to the ED; it is one of the busiest corridors in the hospital for patients, staff and visitors. These paintings transform the hospital corridor from a functional clinical space to one that is welcoming and enriching for everyone who passes by.

Music at University Hospital Limerick 

There are two main initiatives relating to music in UHL:

  • Music has been provided by Kids’ Classics to the Paediatric Unit in the hospital since 2015. It is a not for profit organisation that manages and delivers music to hospitals. In 2016, ‘Medical Notes’ was developed and started to deliver music to adult wards, originally with two medical wards in UHL, Wards 4c and 3b. ‘Medical Notes’ started slowly with one visit a month to each ward; it quickly became popular and other wards were interested in being included. Now, in 2018, eight wards get to enjoy a visit from ‘Medical Notes’ over a 12-month period. These wards range from Acute Medical Wards, Stroke, ENT and more recently the Oncology inpatient ward and Oncology and Haematology Day Unit.
  • ‘Sonas is Slainte’ brings music to a healthcare setting with the aim of providing care and restoration to patients, staff and visitors. It is a joint initiative with the students from the Irish World Academy in UL and the Arts, and provides monthly performances during the academic year.

Meeting the needs of patients in a special way 

I was fortunate to meet Grainne Hope and her colleague David Hope from Kids’ Classics in 2016, and be the person who introduced ‘Medical Notes’ to one of the acute medical adult wards in UHL. I witnessed the response from patients and their relatives when live music was played on the ward by two highly skilled musicians, one playing the cello and the other the guitar. The music and the musicians brought an energy that patients responded to and wanted to be part of. On one occasion I witnessed an older female patient join with the musicians in a rendition of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ – it was a beautiful sight and sound.

Wards are first and foremost a clinical space, to care for patients in all their needs. ‘Medical Notes’ has shown, through their music, that they meet the needs of patients in a special way.

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