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Visualising the body: health professionals’ perceptions of their clinical drawing practices


Health professionals routinely draw for patients, carers and colleagues as part of clinical communication to describe, explain and record. The drawings that result are either discarded, kept by patients or become part of a patient’s records. Some health professionals also draw when engaged in teaching and training in clinical contexts. Very little literature has acknowledged that such drawing regularly takes place and there does not appear to have been formal research into the reasons, benefits or disadvantages of these drawing practices. This study examined the perceptions of seven UK health professionals, from different specialties, who draw as part of their daily professional practice. In this qualitative study, the researchers carried out in-depth individual interviews, during which they invited participants to make exemplar drawings. The findings included that for nearly all, drawing was a flexible, sensitive and spontaneous method of visualising information. In making explanatory drawings for patients, health professionals were taking care to provide information in a way that was accessible and personally relevant. While one participant indicated that ‘live’ drawing had been superseded by professionally illustrated material and video in their profession, the other participants believed that drawing remained the more practical, effective and emotionally appropriate method of visualising explanations. Health professionals convey and clarify knowledge for one another through drawing, yet it does not appear to be included in their training. Drawing was also described as useful and often pleasurable for the professionals themselves. Further research is now needed to explore patients’ perspectives on such drawing practices.

  • medical humanities
  • healthcare education
  • arts in health/arts and health

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