My Experience of Creative Opportunities for Children in Hospital

Student paediatric nurse Ashleigh took on a month long placement with us at The Mighty Creatives to work on her Creative Writing Packs – a project for children and young people in hospitals in Nottinghamshire. Here she reflects on the work she’s produced and her time at TMC.

As a student paediatric nurse, I am often surrounded by children in hospitals from a variety of backgrounds and with vastly different stories. However, one thing they have in common is a lack of creative opportunities, specifically creative writing. This is particularly evident during the term and half term holidays where the sight of children, predominantly teenagers, sat in a bed, bored is common. When speaking to staff from Nottingham Hospital School, they said that they see a decline in their students’ wellbeing after summer holidays. 

The children and young people (CYP) in hospitals are often eager to engage in activities if they are presented with them. Creative writing, visual arts and other creative activities have been shown to have positive effects on health (Nobel and Stuckey, 2010) as well as self-esteem and confidence. It offers an outlet for these CYP to express their emotions and start to make sense of them in a format that is different to the traditional discussion of feelings. Long term, this can be a beneficial strategy for these young people. Creative activities also offer escapism from the difficulties children in hospital face each day. Therefore, I think it is important to introduce CYP to different creative activities to not only give them a respite from boredom that they face in hospital but also to promote health, both short term (in the moment distraction) and long term (coping strategy). 

During my placements as a student nurse, I was shocked to notice the lack of creativity in hospitals, I decided to do my elective placement with The Mighty Creatives. I planned to develop creative writing packs and workshops to help bridge the gap that currently faces hospitals, as there are no projects in hospital schools addressing this issue of a lack of creative opportunities for teenagers. 

The Creative Writing Packs consist of twenty-eight pages, with a variety of writing prompts, mandala colouring sheets, mindfulness techniques and other activities spread throughout. These are presented in a fun, colourful way to distinguish the packs from schoolwork or NHS documents and to be appealing to anyone who might not typically enjoy this type of activity. The variety of prompts gives the CYP the most opportunity to find a style that works for them, as well as providing a taster of many different ideas so they do not feel disheartened if a specific prompt doesn’t work for them. The packs also aim to engage all the senses to give an immersive experience. 

These Creative Writing Packs will initially be rolled out to 3 wards on Hopewood – Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. These wards are in the Lookout Adolescent Unit, a 32-bed inpatient facility for children and young people experiencing mental health difficulties, aged 12 – 18 years old. Depending on feedback, the packs may be given over the entire hospital school following the Hopewood rollout. Hopefully, the Creative Writing Packs will inspire change in the current hospital format when it comes to creative writing and provide the CYP with a new outlet that they can take with them in the future.  

When it comes to introducing workshops into the hospital schools over summer it proved harder that we could have imagined to try and get them up and running. No projects like this have ever happened over summer holidays, so there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding paperwork, staffing and other technical issues. However, there is interest from staff on the wards in this project, so we are working hard alongside the Hospital School to try and get follow up workshops in October holidays. 

Nobel, J. and Stuckey, H. L. (2010) The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American journal of public health. 100(2): pp.254–263. 

Discover more about our Creative Futures opportunities, including work experience, the Employ ME Scheme and Mighty Employers Network.