The University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) has teamed up with St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital to install an exhibition in its oncology ward to help address health and wellbeing for both patients and staff.
The exhibition, titled Undercurrent: Arts and Wellbeing, is not just for hospital patients – it’s also for healthcare workers and staff who might be feeling disconnected or overwhelmed.
Lisa Hobbs is a Brisbane-based artist who has worked as a paramedic for around 20 years and is currently undertaking a Higher Degree Research PhD through UniSQ, looking at women’s experiences in paramedicine through creative arts-based research.
Ms Hobbs said the practice of creating art and participating in this exhibition had allowed her to work through the highs and lows of such a demanding job.
“As paramedics, there are so many protocols and procedures to follow, and sometimes you can lose sight of how you actually have the best job in the world,” Ms Hobbs said.
“You can see everything from somebody being born and taking their first breath to holding somebody’s hand as they take their last breath – and everything in between – on a single day.
“My artwork ‘Escaping the Cycle’ is from a clinician’s point of view, and it’s about sometimes feeling like you’re just a cog in the machine, trying to figure out where your place is in that healthcare continuum.
“It was a piece that helped me reiterate that I’m not stuck as this tiny little speck; that the things I do can ripple out and affect people and their patient journey, but also their family and loved ones, and their patient journeys.”
Ms Hobbs said a big focus of her art was amplifying the voices and experiences of female paramedics.
“When I first started in paramedicine, there were very few females around. The numbers on the road now are pretty much equal, but there are still a lot of women out there who have experiences to share and potentially feel unheard,” she said.
“This piece, and this exhibition, offered the opportunity to amplify those female voices and start some of those discussions around female-specific issues in the workforce that may not have received the full amount of attention they deserve.”
Art as an experience
UniSQ Associate Professor in Sculpture (Visual Arts) and Associate Head (Research) Beata Batorowicz said the process of creating art gave people a new vehicle to express themselves in ways they may not have before – such as visual and experiential ways of storytelling.
“It’s so important to highlight the interconnectivity between arts and health and the importance of person-centred stories, as well as the way that art can influence spaces that are perhaps unconventional to where it’s usually housed – like a hospital,” Associate Professor Batorowicz said.
“Particularly here in St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital, it’s about looking at the power and agency that art can have as a process; there’s so much more beyond the surface of what you see.
“The way this exhibition has come together has been an interconnecting experience and a community-building experience. The people who have come together make this project, and the work is almost like the aftermath of that experience.”
The Undercurrent: Arts and Wellbeing exhibition is a collaboration between the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Heritage and Culture and the School of Creative Arts, along with St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital and several external university partners in Australia and overseas.
“We’re very thankful to St Andrew’s Hospital. It’s a wonderful initiative to exhibit some of the works here and share stories and connect in the actual space and environment,” Associate Professor Batorowicz said.
The Undercurrent: Arts and Wellbeing exhibition can be viewed on Level 1, Building 4 of the Medical Oncology Corridor St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital until February 14, 2024.