Creative Workshop: Collaging your Dream Hospital. Maternity Voices Partnership & Sensing Spaces of Healthcare

by Rebecka Fleetwood-Smith and Fran Carroll

The Sensing Spaces of Healthcare project uses creative approaches to carry out research. We develop these approaches to explore people’s sensory experiences of specific environments and work with particular groups through patient involvement and public engagement to help us better develop these tools. One of the activities that we use is a collaging task in which individuals are invited to create a collage inspired by how their dream hospital would feel. 

Working with the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Maternity Voices Partnership (BNSSG MVP), we invited MVP members and staff to take part in the ‘Collaging your Dream Hospital’ activity. This workshop was designed to explore how we may enhance the collage activity in order to carry out research in maternity environments.  The MVP is an independent organisation run by a team of volunteers from local communities, working together with health professionals, including the NHS, to represent the voices of women, birthing people and their families, helping to make improvements in local maternity care. Anyone who has used maternity services in the area is welcome to join, and the MVP team is always looking to connect with and hear from service users and their families about their experiences.

We held the development workshop over Zoom and sent all attendees collage packs to use during the session. During the workshop we explored how our dream hospital would look and feel, creating collages live over Zoom. Attendees’ collages were inspired by dream maternity environments and explored ideas around feeling valued, listened to, comforted, welcomed, respected, in control, supported, calm, happy, excited, nourished, free, content, and creative. 

When sharing the collages, attendees discussed how ideas overlapped and differed, and the ways in which using collage materials enabled them to express thoughts around maternity environments. For example, themes of nature were apparent amongst the pieces, as were tactile materials, while soft edges which were used to mimic a sense of comfort. Materials were layered and attendees discussed the use of acetate to explore the importance of transparency and communication within the setting.

Figures 1 -3 are some of the collages that were created during the session. All figures are shared with permission.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Figures 1-3: Example collages inspired by dream maternity environment

After completing and discussing the collage process, attendees were invited to complete the ‘Reflect’ section of session. This involved considering how they found taking part and how it may have made them think about the hospital environment. These activities have been developed for the purpose of evaluation and so attendees were also invited to consider how they engaged with and found answering the questions. Although this workshop was for the purpose of developing the creative research activity, it was interesting to hear attendees share similar thoughts around taking part with many sharing that they found creating their collage to be inspiring, energising, enjoyable, relaxing, and productive. The process enabled them to reflect on their sensory experiences of maternity environments (as noted in Figure 5). Yet attendees also reflected on the process of creating their collages and how it was enjoyable to use the different materials and how effective the creative process can be.

Picture 4-5

Figures 4 and 5: Examples from the Reflect activity.

The session concluded with a final discussion, in which we talked about how we could move the activity forward and what could be improved. For example, some people would have preferred to participate in person, as opposed to online. We also reflected on the choice of materials within the collage packs and what may be missing, with some attendees suggesting the use of magazines and further everyday materials. Overall, participating in the workshop was positive and discussions demonstrated the accessibility of the collage activity as a useful tool to explore maternity environments. Yet, conversations also involved considering how the activity was framed and how people take part. For example, attendees expressed a want to know how their work may be taken forward – demonstrating there is a need for clarity around the purpose of such development sessions. This also highlighted the need to support those taking part in research sessions to continue to engage with the project after their participation. The Sensing Spaces of Healthcare project will result in the creation of prototypes designed in response to the research. To enable those who participate to share and celebrate their involvement it is essential that we use multiple ways to communicate this work. 

We would like to thank all those who took part in this development workshop. The discussions and feedback help us develop our approach to research and shape the project.

Maternity Voices Partnership

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