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What’s in the case? Packing art materials for healthcare environments

Rachel Tynan and Siobhán Clancy

What’s in the case? What type of materials will engage young people? What should you keep handy? What materials are a no-no in hospital? 

Rachel Tynan and Siobhán Clancy, Artists in Residence with Helium Arts, share their top tips for packing arts materials for a hospital-based residency and for children’s health settings more generally.


Top tips from Siobhán when packing art materials for the hospital

Don’t overpack: You’ll be on the move all day and need to find everything quickly. Pack wisely and make sure you can easily carry your materials up and down stairs.

Sterilising fluid: It’s possible to get travel-sized bottles of sterilizing fluid to keep your hands infection free while on the go.

Keep it clean: Make sure all materials can be wiped down with sterilizing wipes or sprayed with cloths to stop the spread of infection. Dispose of papers and other absorbent materials even when unused after a period agreed with hospital staff.

Cover up: Use waterproof casing or sticky contact on technology tools such as tablets and cameras to avoid getting any potential infectious material into hidden crevasses. We use an ‘Otter Box’ for our iPad. Be aware that sterilizing fluid will discolour plastic.

Bring flyers: Participants and guardians will want to know about your role in the hospital so have your contact details to hand. A flyer is a handy way to give a lot of information at once and to link to more details. Ideally, your picture would be on the flyer to verify your identity.

Make it colourful: Choose colourful papers and pens to brighten up everyone’s day. It’s always helpful to have a range of cards and papers.

Avoid glitter and powders: Fine grains and glitter can damage hospital equipment and exacerbate respiratory problems.  Glitter glue can offer a safe alternative to loose glitter. Remember: if in doubt, leave them out!

Be careful with sharp tools: Always supervise the use of scissors. Only offer craft knives to young people that have steady hands and are fully cognisant. Keep all sharp items away from hospital equipment and cables.

Stay hygienic: Do you have a habit of cutting tape with your teeth or putting a pencil behind your ear? Be aware that this can spread infection so don’t do it in the hospital.

Surprises: It’s always great to have something in the case that you don’t know what to do with or something unusual. These things start conversations and allow opportunities for someone else to teach you something new!

Siobhan’s top items for working in a hospital

A clock to keep track of time.

A tablet: It takes photos, video and audio, facilitates research online and the use of apps to create and disseminate art work. Don’t forget to bring a charger for your technology tools. It’s terrible when you run out of juice mid-movie!

A few plastic erasers and a craft knife to make your own stamps: No matter what a participant’s interests, everyone loves to have a unique stamp with their initials! Even if they can’t make it themselves, it’s a fast and enjoyable way to keep your hands busy while spending time by the side of a patient and chatting. Don’t forget to bring an ink pad! (Remember plastic works far better than rubber erasers).

Non-toxic glue: Always check the label and do a sniff test before purchasing to make sure it won’t cause dizziness or nausea.

Extra Space: You never know what you will find or make so always have a little bit of room to add something special.

Siobhan’s top items for working in a hospital

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