Image courtesy of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Image courtesy of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Healthcare staff wellbeing is at the forefront of new creative work commissioned by the Irish Hospice Foundation and supported by the Creative Ireland Programme. Four artists will develop creative resources to support the professional care teams in the HSE who engage with dying, death and bereavement on a daily basis.

Arts & Engagement Programme 
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.

Creative resources for healthcare staff 
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.

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.’ – Dr. Philip Crowley, National Director of Strategy and Research, HSE

Commissioned artists
Four artists were selected from 43 applications to work with IHF on the development of creative resources for the wellbeing of healthcare workers. 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.

Darren Yorke is a theatre maker and improvisation expert who aims to level the playing field for making meaningful and magical things happen, onstage and off. Darren seeks to actively engage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, using improvisation and play to nurture joy.

Derbhile Dromey is a writer, journalist, poet and playwright based in Waterford. Derbhile has worked with Waterford Healing Arts Trust, National Council for the Blind and Waterford Intellectual Disability Association amongst other organisations. 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.’

Derval Dunford 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 assisted on trauma-sensitive breathwork programmes with US psychiatrists, researchers and authors Gerbarg & Brown. Her practices are evidence-based and/or research-based. In recent years, Derval’s personal artwork has blossomed. As a result, reflection and expression through artwork are now an integral part of her wellness programmes.

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, Rebecca’s project in Donegal 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.


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