Evaluation of WHAT Arts Prog in Renal Dialysis

“Reflective and transformative” 

Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) has published an independent evaluation of its Arts Programme in the Renal Dialysis Unit at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).  The evaluation was commissioned in 2018 with a view to informing the future development of the programme, and was completed earlier this year.  Conducted by independent researcher Leigh Tesch, the evaluation report is overwhelming positive and concludes that “The programme can adapt (to) and support the individual person receiving dialysis, so that their journey with kidney disease can be eased, explored and lead to remarkable and meaningful opportunities”.  

The Executive Summary of the evaluation is available here: An-evaluation-of-WHAT-art-programme-in-RDU-Exec-Summary.pdf

The full report can be accessed by contacting Waterford Healing Arts Trust at what@hse.ie / 051 842664.

The Renal Dialysis Unit at UHW is an 18-bed unit which accommodates approximately 90 chronic renal dialysis patients every week from the south-east of Ireland.  Each patient attends for renal dialysis for 3-4 hours, usually three times per week.  WHAT has been running an arts programme in the Renal Dialysis Unit since 2007.  Artists work in the unit on a weekly basis, engaging patients in art making, including visual art, photography, writing and singing/music. The arts programme is funded by the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund and is supported by the staff members on the unit who are keen to provide positive, creative and diversionary activities for their patients.

Prior to 2018, the programme had been evaluated on an ongoing basis through artists’ reflective journals and staff reviews.  The independent evaluation was commissioned to:
– Review progress made in the delivery of the programme from 2007-2018
– Analyse the artists’ models of working, and
– Make recommendations for the priorities and focus of the programme from 2019-2021.

Independent researcher Leigh Tesch, an occupational therapist, artist and PhD student at the University of Tasmania, was selected via a competitive process to carry out the research.  She reviewed artworks and records, and carried out observations, interviews and focus groups with a wide range of stakeholders, including patients, family members, staff, artists and programme co-ordinators.  Commenting on the publication of the research, Leigh Tesch said “A total of 41 people and many more stories contributed to this evaluation and their experiences were recorded, analysed and summarised to produce this report.  I found that WHAT’s arts programme in renal dialysis not only offers a way to pass the time while undergoing treatment, but a reflective and transformative personal experience.  It is to be commended and can inspire other Units and healthcare settings.”

Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is Ireland’s leading arts and health organisation.  Established in 1993, WHAT brings arts experiences to the bedsides of patients at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and other healthcare settings.  WHAT believes that the arts contribute to the wellbeing and vitality of society and that engaging with the arts stimulates the participant’s sense of identity and creativity. WHAT also supports the development of arts and health in Ireland and manages the national website www.artsandhealth.ie