Life after Intensive Care: overcoming adversity, celebrating creativity.

What was the engagement activity? 

We held a public engagement event at the Thistle Foundation in Edinburgh in August 2018. Our aim was to showcase the positive ways in which people used creative activities (e.g. poetry, music, creative writing) and volunteering to help their recoveries after Intensive Care. The event was attended by over 40 participants, including former Intensive Care patients, their family and friends, a range of professionals from across health and social care, voluntary organisations and charities (e.g. the Scottish Alliance, a creative writing group and Music in Hospitals). We also had a number of esteemed guests/speakers in attendance, including the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Scott Hastings (Scotland international rugby player) and Tommy Shepherd (MSP for Edinburgh).

Who did you engage with? 

We engaged with health professionals and patients through the Thistle Foundation, a health and wellbeing charity based in Edinburgh that supports people living with long-term conditions across Scotland to live the life they want.

Why did you do it? 

I’ve been doing interview-based research with people who’ve survived Intensive Care for over 12 years now. An interesting and recurrent theme has been the ways in which people use creative activities (e.g. poetry, music, creative writing) and volunteering to help them in their recoveries. We wanted to provide a space where people could share their experiences, inspire others, and make links with other groups or organisations who could support future Intensive Care patients in these types of activities. We specifically filmed our event, so that we could share it on an existing website that aims to support patients in recovery. Importantly, the event also doubled up as a celebration of the team’s first year together as a support group for Intensive Care patients and their family members (, and as a fundraiser!

What went well? 

Our event was an incredible team effort, of which we were all extremely proud. Former patients and their family members helped to: organize the event (including the venue, catering and agenda); identify and contact speakers; advertise and chair the event and most importantly, to bravely share their experiences of “what helped” them in their own recoveries. Highlights were patients sharing their poetry/spoken word, music, digital imagery and experiences of volunteering. Feedback was extremely positive from the former patients and their family members, from the various professional health, social care and third sector groups attending, and from our esteemed guests.

What might you have done differently? 

Our main challenge was the short timescale in which we had to organize and host our event; around six weeks! We were only able to pull it off with great teamwork. The event went extremely well and we are keen to hold similar events in the future, including more social and fundraising events for our support group.

Participants described the eventas“moving”, “so positive”, “awesome” and “inspiring”. “An amazing group of people turning their ICU experience into positive support for others”

Mark Hudson via Twitter

Dr Pam Ramsey, School of Health and Social Care.


More information about the project