Depth of Field: Exploring Stroke Recovery

UWA Lecturer in Health Professions Education Dr Gabrielle Brand, stoke patient featured in the exhibition, John and RPH Medical Photographer Steve Wise.
UWA Lecturer in Health Professions Education Dr Gabrielle Brand, stoke patient featured in the exhibition, John and RPH Medical Photographer Steve Wise.
September 26, 2017

Royal Perth and Bentley hospitals worked with the University of WA (UWA) to launch Depth of Field: Exploring Stroke Recovery, an innovative learning tool to assist individuals and families affected by stroke.

The project was launched during UWA Research Week and National Stroke Week with a photo and video exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at UWA.

RPH Geriatric Medicine Specialist, Adjunct Professor Chris Etherton-Beer, explained that the project used art (photography) and literature as a narrative bridge between clinical and human experiences of illness which allowed community members to access deeper meanings and understanding of patient experiences.

A/Prof Chris Etherton-Beer said the project, which was developed over a two year period, was unique because it was co-produced by a number of experts in their field and includes:

  • Brave volunteers who openly shared their stories of having a stroke and their family members who witnessed and supported their journey
  • West Australian award winning writer Susan Varga who wrote a series of poems in the aftermath of a debilitating stroke in her book “Rupture”, and
  • Medical /Creative Photographer Steve Wise.

Also key to the project is its lead, UWA Lecturer in Health Professions Education, medical research and teacher Gabrielle Brand.

Dr Brand said that the key project team, which included passionate social worker Collette Issac, quickly learned that they shared a desire to use patient voice to widen the lens on stroke recovery.

“We then began to see and interpret their (the patient’s) worlds from their perspective,” Dr Brand said.

“Themes from the patients stories included experiencing periods of darkness and hopelessness; the importance of setting goals; cautiously managing fragile expectations; giving up activities that they love; changing roles and relationships with family,” she said.

“We also learned that patience is a necessary virtue in recovery especially when adjusting to a new reality or way of being in the world following a stroke.”

Dr Brand explained that in the coming months, the project team will use the images and narratives (captured on video) to develop a peer-to-peer tool to educate new stroke patients and evaluate it with staff and patients at Bentley Hospital’s stroke rehabilitation unit.

The project artefacts – including a range of sensitive videos showing the patients and their families speaking in raw detail about their stoke journey – will be used as an innovative reflective learning resource to promote deeper understandings around stroke that will teach health professions students across the faculty to move “beyond the stroke diagnosis” to more human-centred approach to care.”