Students at the Heart of Barber Health

Student engagement will be central to the Barber Institute’s groundbreaking new Barber Health project, and will range from elective academic placements through to opportunities to help deliver workshops and activities for campus and community.

Barber Health starts this spring, thanks to a £40,000 Art Fund grant. Using the gallery and its collection to address the health and social issues foregrounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, it will roll out a programme of innovative arts activity delivered in, and with, the communities on our doorstep, with health and wellbeing as the aim and outcome. The ambitious project comprises a nurse in residence, death and dying community conversations, care-home outreach and a social prescribing pilot.

Jane Nicol, senior lecturer at the University’s Institute of Clinical Sciences and a registered nurse with extensive experience in end-of-life and palliative care, starts her 12-month residency with the Barber on 1 March. She will be seeking opportunities to use the Barber for academic teaching – enabling students to learn outside the lecture theatre – and will network with her colleagues in the College of Medical and Dental Science, inspiring them to include the Barber in their teaching practice. The resulting sessions will build on work completed during the last three years by Jane and the Barber’s Head of Public Engagement, Jen Ridding. Jane and Jen have already designed and delivered workshops in tech gallery and online to student nurses, medics and sixth-formers, classes that harnessed the Barber’s world-class art collection and facilitated learning about death, dying and bereavement.

Nursing students will be offered placements with the museum’s Learning and Engagement team to help develop Barber Health. This follows another successful trial scheme undertaken by two second-year undergraduate nursing students in 2018, when they audited the gallery from the perspective of those living with dementia and their carers. Jen said talks were already underway with one student keen on taking up a placement. In addition, placements for two pharmacy students have been confirmed for the academic year 2021-22.

There are also ambitions to engage students in Barber Health through extracurricular channels. Plans are afoot to collaborate with MedSoc, potentially involving student volunteers to help deliver workshops for students or pop-up events on campus or in the community.

“With more than 80 student societies within MDS, there is huge potential to collaborate and engage there,” says Jen. “We’re excited to be finding new ways to work with students and engage them with the project. They’re the healthcare professionals of tomorrow, so giving them unique and powerful opportunities to experience the power of art and culture to improve health and wellbeing outcomes is key to the Barber Health vision.

“We are still in the early days of Barber Health and looking forward to developing all the different strands. The next twelve months are going to remain challenging in many ways – the course of the pandemic remains uncertain and its long-lasting societal effects are yet to be fully understood. However, we are confident that Barber Health can inspire and empower – we shall explore, be brave and ask questions – and use this project to address and respond to our communities’ needs.”

Jen Ridding, Head of Public Engagement.

Find out more

Read more about Barber Health