Meet Fiona Turland

Meet Fiona Turland, the first Art Therapy student at Monash Children’s Hospital.

What is your role at Monash Health and what does it entail?

I’m currently studying a Masters in Art Therapy at La Trobe University, and recently completed my placement at Monash Children’s Hospital.

I’ve been working with our employees, patients and families at the Monash Children’s Cancer Centre two days a week since the beginning of the year as part of my 550 hour placement.

What motivated you to pursue a Masters in art therapy?

When I first learned about art therapy, I thought that it would be the perfect blend of my two passions as I have an art practice and a background in nursing. It was a delightful discovery of something that I am really passionate about.

What has your journey been like at Monash Health?

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Monash Health, it’s been fantastic!

It was challenging in the beginning as I am the first art therapy student, but I’ve had a lot of support and everyone has been really inclusive and encouraging. It’s been wonderful!

Over the course of the year people have started to understand more about how art therapy can be incorporated into psychosocial care, particularly with children and families at the Children’s Cancer Centre.

As part of your placement you worked on a project titled ‘lifelines’, a collage produced in collaboration with our employees, patients and their families. What is the idea behind the project?

My idea was to create a representation of art therapy in a hospital setting. The collage comprises 16 canvases, so that each child has their own canvas. These canvases were then combined to form a collaborative artwork.

The concept behind ‘lifelines’ is the lines that join us all together as people, and in the journey of children and families in hospital. This is represented through the lines on your palms, and how these lines tell the story of your life. It also represents the idea of medical treatment being a lifeline for children who are sick.

The collage will be displayed on the ward where children can see their artwork and be proud of their contribution.

How did our patients and families interact with the artwork?

They were really enthusiastic, it was great. I chose crayons as the main medium for the artwork as it was more accessible and easy for children to use. We also used water, which is a more fluid and emotive medium that allows you to get more in touch with your feelings. The parents loved it too and had a really good time working on the project.

What impact does art therapy have on our patients and their families?

It’s got the potential to have a massive impact on patients and their families. Art is a pleasurable activity that most people enjoy, and is a diversion to help people get their mind off what they are going through. Art therapy helps people express and process their feelings, and can help give them clarity about life and their ability to cope with challenging circumstances.

What are your goals for the future?

I completed my placement last Friday, and have two more subjects to complete next year to finish my Masters in Art Therapy. My goal is work with children and families in oncology and paediatric care. It would be lovely to come back here and work with the wonderful team at Monash Children’s Hospital again in the future!