We explain how creative capability is needed at a time of health transformation.

The idea for CUREate started with one key question: who do we need to encourage to consider health that we are not encouraging already? Health is entering a time of transformation – long-standing boundaries that determine who delivers care and where it is delivered are starting to blur, with a focus shifting away from place and towards people. Healthcare will change, and it needs people who can conceptualise and embrace new ways of working.

Creative people possess the capabilities to meet the challenges inherent in change, but health careers outreach tends to focus on people working towards or possessing qualifications in science. This reflects an academically demanding curriculum that includes modules in the sciences and prepares students to engage with research and evidence-based practice. It’s logical to build clinical skills on top of a foundation of clinical knowledge, and decisions should always be informed by evidence.

We are always interested in developing non-typical career paths for our students as we believe that the world should make broader use of creativity as a capability rather than as a skillset.

Edward Venning, Director of Communication and External Affairs, University of the Arts London

But anyone familiar with the NHS Values ‘6 C’s’ knows that courage, compassion, commitment and communication are of equal importance to competence in care. The creative disciplines develop these values and capabilities. In addition, creative disciplines also prepare students for investigation and analysis, as well develop other foundational skills including technical know-how and non-verbal language.

Our perspectives and case studies highlight how those with creative backgrounds thrive in their health careers. Their capacity for empathy, diligence and collaboration fit within a system that is shifting culturally towards person-centric care and kindness. Creatives also call upon their own artistic skills and understanding to help their patients meet their goals. These perspectives and case studies also highlight how creative identity can create an interest in certain hard-to-recruit roles, i.e. dance and podiatry, as well as acting and speech and language therapy.

Many HEIs do already accept those holding A-levels and degrees in creative disciplines for health courses, including those partnering with the CUREate programme. Returning to our core question, however, is enough being done to actively encourage those with creative backgrounds or qualifications to consider health as a career pathway? Before CUREate, we found it hard to surface any such outreach, and this gap contributed to the success of our application to the Office for Students Strategic Interventions in Health Education Disciplines Challenge Fund.

What we would like to see is a shift to a more active form of health careers outreach to creatives. To aid in this, we co-produced a framework with people whose experience spans both disciplines. The framework starts from the perspective of the creative, highlighting the potential for health careers to be a stable counterpart to what can be volatile creative work but also what creatives may find fulfilling about health careers. We are also trialing new ways of health careers outreach that use creative methods, including photography, music, acting and dance.

Our belief is that health careers bring creativity to life, and creatives bring life to the health professions. Put simply, creative people and their capabilities – agility, curiosity, proactivity and resilience – belong in health. Our goal is to encourage that to happen.


30th April 2020