back to home

Sensing with medical students

written by Anna Harris
09/10/17

MAASTRICHT, 26th June – 30th June 2017 – There has been a lot of interest recently in training the observational (mostly visual) skills of medical students, often within the remit of medical humanities. This often occurs through  art classes for medical students, where medical students are trained to look at paintings in new ways, with the theory that better observational skills improves diagnostic ability as well as empathy. Recently, I published an article called Medical Education of Attention with Eleanor Flynn, a colleague and collaborator of mine in Melbourne, which urged for an extension of this approach, suggesting that diagnostic skills can be better developed through training exercises that attend to sensory experience more broadly. We argued for a series of practical workshops for medical students that focused on their skills in attention and sensory awareness through a curriculum of hands-on activities that could be developed and articulated into the existing curriculum. One of our suggestions was a cooking class. During the week of June 26th, the Making Clinical Sense team had the opportunity to be involved in an event which meant we could explore precisely this possibility.

All photos of Marres omelette experiment by Romy Finke, artist and photographer, Maastricht, used with permission from the artist and students.

The event was an elective for medical students at Maastricht University. The elective, initiated by the Art and Heritage Committee at Maastricht University, ran for some weeks across a number of art institutions in Maastricht. We were involved for the week which was organised in collaboration with Marres House for Contemporary Culture and the Skills Lab, at Maastricht University. A particularly exciting aspect of this event was that the students were encouraged to extend beyond the more traditional task of looking at paintings. The exhibition at Marres, which the medical students engaged with during the week, was called The Painted Bird, and involved murals exploring the themes of Europe. Led by arts educator Ilse van Lieshout and director Valentijn Byvanck, students were not only encouraged to look, but also use their other senses in the space, such as movement, through a number of moving exercises, or touch, through examination of various objects. Students also drew maps of the spaces based on their experiences.

We contributed with an exercise designed to train the students’ skills of observation, through following a recipe of how to make an omelette, exploring not only how to read and interpret a recipe, and observe, with their senses, the cooking process, but also what it meant to observe others’ cooking. While one half of the class cooked, the other half were taking fieldnotes, writing or drawing about that they were seeing, hearing, smelling in front of them. Later in the week the students went to the Skills Lab, and during some sessions led by Femke Jongen, Laura Navarro, Valentijn Byvanck and Ilse van Lieshout, conducted experiments in sensing each other’s bodies, based on their insights from their time at Marres.

During these exercises, the students were invited to attend to differences (in sounds, sight, taste, smell, texture, movement etc.), to guide them to noticing aspects of their body, materials, their environment, they might otherwise not notice, to find ways to articulate these experiences and to reflect on the skills of observation and attentiveness to those observations that are required for their work as doctors. It was wonderful to be involved in this pilot program in Maastricht, a program which, as Eleanor and I argued for in our paper, reinforced the importance of attending to attentiveness when teaching medical students physical examination skills, a quality which is important, and indeed crucial, to their abilities as diagnosticians.

filter entries

A life in speculum

by Sally Wyatt
August 12, 2019
Inspiration

Repetition in ethnographic writing

by Andrea Wojcik
August 2, 2019
Publication

Food for thought in medical training

by Anna Harris
July 31, 2019
Conference

The Body and the Built Environment

by John Nott
July 9, 2019
Event

Material thinking workshop

by Anna Harris
June 26, 2019
Event

Anthropology in medical education

by Anna Harris
June 24, 2019
Event

Making by writing

by Anna Harris
June 14, 2019
Event

Introduction to perfumery

by Rachel Allison
May 17, 2019
Inspiration

Practicing music skills

by Carla Greubel
May 16, 2019
Inspiration

Lost in translation, and in space

by John Nott
March 27, 2019
Event

Time for tinkering

by Anna Harris
February 21, 2019
Event

How smart is “smart” technology?

by Andrea Wojcik
January 11, 2019
Materials

Tools of the teaching trade

by Sally Wyatt
January 10, 2019
Materials

Christmas yarn

by Anna Harris
December 24, 2018
Multimedia

Cooking classes

by Anna Harris
November 26, 2018
Inspiration

Barefeet

by Anna Harris
October 21, 2018
Inspiration

Letterheads

by Anna Harris
September 26, 2018
Inspiration

Postcards

by Anna Harris
September 16, 2018
Materials

Wax museum

by Rachel Allison
August 6, 2018
Publication

Expressive instructions

by Anna Harris
July 31, 2018
Inspiration

Writing resources

by Rachel Allison
July 23, 2018
Event

Meaning and beauty

by Rachel Allison
July 20, 2018
Conference

Correspondence

by Anna Harris
July 16, 2018
Materials

The allure of the archives

by John Nott
June 28, 2018
Event

Methods workshop at UDS

by Andrea Wojcik
May 23, 2018
Event

Probes

by Anna Harris
May 16, 2018
Article

Tricks

by Anna Harris
April 27, 2018
Writing workshop

Beyond the elevator

by Anna Harris
April 6, 2018
Conference

Simulating touch

by Anna Harris
March 27, 2018
Conference

Dancing, moving, unsettling

by Anna Harris
March 9, 2018
Event

Skillshare Writing Workshop

by Rachel Allison
February 25, 2018
Conference

STS in/on Africa

by John Nott
February 19, 2018
Article

A month together

February 8, 2018
Event

Comparison as method

by Anna Harris
February 6, 2018
Publication

Working with bias

by Anna Harris
January 19, 2018
Inspiration

Holiday reading

by Anna Harris
January 3, 2018
Materials

Modelling movement in medical education

by Andrea Wojcik
December 13, 2017
Conference

Embroider meet surgeon

by Anna Harris
October 30, 2017
Event

Sensing with medical students

by Anna Harris
October 9, 2017
Materials

Pagers

by Anna Harris
September 13, 2017

We are hiring!

September 5, 2017
Event

TransPositions Summer School 2017

September 4, 2017
Conference

Ethnographic Experimentation #Colleex

by Rachel Allison
August 7, 2017
Event

Making an omelette

by Sally Wyatt
July 21, 2017
Materials

Tuning forks and electronics

by Sally Wyatt
May 12, 2017
Event

Drawing Instruments

by Rachel Allison
March 20, 2017
Article

Experimenting with collaborative sensory ethnography

by Andrea Wojcik
March 16, 2017
Conference

A sensory training workshop

by Anna Harris
August 29, 2016
Loading