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OU funds Creative Writing research with COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers

Person writing in a notebook

An Open University COVID-19 Rapid Response funding scheme is supporting a series of writing workshops with health care workers in acute care and palliative care in collaboration with the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. The plan is that this research will lead to the production of a new Creative Writing Handbook for COVID-19 frontline workers.

Developed by Dr Siobhan Campbell, OU Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing, the workshop series, which has been awarded £5,000, will test life writing exercises and and self-reflective memoir to explore the potential of using creative writing to benefit all frontline workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Campbell is drawing on her experience as Principal Investigator for a project which used creative and expressive writing during end of life care with the Royal Trinity Hospice London as well as her work with military veterans in Combat Stress UK. She is partnered by Mel McEvoy, Nurse Practitioner and specialist in palliative care, who recently completed the MA in Creative Writing at the OU.

Working with the imagination to create lasting effects

Dr Campbell said:

“The work in creative and expressive writing with frontline healthcare workers may help to establish one strand of a suite of responses to the acute pressures these workers experience during and after pandemic.

“By helping to create a handbook that may be rolled out for use in different health care environments, this project hopes to create an inclusive and sustainable set of approaches, recognising how creative writing and work with the imagination can have both immediate and long-lasting effects.”

Investigating the ongoing effect of COVID-19 on healthcare workers

Initial workshops will be held from September to November 2020 at the North Tees University Hospital with a follow up session in January 2021 to set up the second tranche. They are for doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, ward-based pharmacists and speech and language therapists who delivered care during the COVID-19 outbreak. The second set of workshops from February to April 2021, will allow the project to consider the ongoing effect on how  healthcare workers can conceive of their own responses to personal experience and also to investigate the possible differences of approach incurred during response to a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr Campbell added:

“We are interested in the relationship between expressive writing and creative writing and the kind of well-being that leads to behavioural change. Expressive writing may relate to life experience while creative writing may be writing stories or poems from the imagination but both strands are underpinned by the transformative power of the writing process.

“We want to ask whether the creation of meaningful pieces of writing can support individual coping mechanisms and whether it can also promote the ability of this group to build an ongoing community of practice’.

If successful, the research is designed to lead to a published handbook which should be available to frontline healthcare workers in the new year.

Find out more about OU research in Creative Writing

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