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Arts-based interventions in healthcare education
  1. Magda Osman1,
  2. Bella Eacott2,
  3. Suzy Willson2,3
  1. 1 School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  2. 2 Performing Medicine, Clod Ensemble, London, UK
  3. 3 Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Bella Eacott, Performing Medicine, Clod Ensemble, London E8 3FN, United Kingdom; bella{at}


Healthcare education institutions are increasingly including arts-based interventions in their programmes. We analysed 62 studies of arts-based interventions to understand how these interventions may be beneficial, and why providing evidence continues to be a challenge for the field.

Our analysis highlighted two issues. We found that 79% of the included studies reported that their interventions were successful, but without always defining this success or how it was measured. This lack of clarity was apparent in descriptions of both what arts-based interventions aimed to do, and in descriptions of how they might do this. We also found that only 34% of studies involved a collaboration with artists or arts educators, raising questions over who had the necessary experience and specialism in the arts to design and deliver such interventions.

Our analysis revealed that arts-based interventions are failing to acknowledge, and subsequently capture through assessment, the process of learning in the moment. This is particularly important because arts-based pedagogies typically use embodied, practical, physical methods, in which what is being learnt cannot be separated from the process of learning. Involving artists and arts educators throughout the process of designing and delivering these interventions may help to bring clarity over what arts-based interventions are aiming to do and how they may do this, and ensure that appropriate evaluation methods are used. We suggest that close observation with feedback, and the use of reflective portfolios are two ways of assessing the process of learning in arts-based interventions.

  • Art
  • Health Care Education
  • Medical Education

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  • Contributors MO and BE led and designed the study. BE facilitated data collection and MO undertook data analysis. MO, BE and SW wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the critical revision of the paper, approved the final manuscript for publication and have agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity.

  • Funding This research was funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Humanities and Social Science.

  • Competing interests SW is Director of the Performing Medicine programme which delivers arts-based interventions at various medical schools and NHS Trusts across the UK. Other authors have no completing interest to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.