The ‘Medicine and the Arts’ element of the Human Development & Behavioural Science course (as run by the Department of Public Health & Primary Care) is about helping the medical students develop their understanding of and empathy with patients further. The arts are seen as a way of gaining insights into the human condition (through reading and discussion) and awareness of the needs of others and how you might help in pastoral, social or educational terms.
So, what is the human condition? Well, one thing I know about it is that it is most often “hidden”, kept away from public scrutiny. The truth about “how someone is feeling” is rarely revealed in full. It is difficult to get a good look at. You need to read between the lines and look out for clues. Environments like hospitals, surgeries or clinics often make health care workers slightly more blind to it than “natural” environments like home or the street. Not only will some people try to hide away their condition even more in public buildings, but the senses of the people looking out for their condition will often be dulled by years and layers of routine going on in the same institutionalised environment.
The arts can help explore the human condition & reveal something of what we might be missing when we glance routinely at the next patient while anticipating the next one or the lunch break and the gossip with colleagues who have unnoticeably become our only friends. The arts can make us more alert to what is actually going on around us; can bring us to our senses, as it were.
Check out “Live Diagram” by The League of Imaginary Scientists to see an example of what can go on within, in spite of what without might be telling us: