Manual Drawing in clinical communication: understanding the role of clinical mark-making

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Philippa Lyon
Martha Turland


This provocation focuses on research into the widespread manual drawing practices used between health professionals and patients in secondary care. The drawings made are produced ‘live’ and in front of the patient or colleague, experienced sequentially (mark by mark) in the moment of their production and sometimes retained, as having documentary (medical records) or personal value. 

Can these drawing practices be illuminated by Barthes’ comic strip theories of ‘relay’, in terms of the sequential unfolding of images, and ‘anchorage’, in which texts (or textual annotations and speech) pinpoint meanings that would otherwise circulate more ambiguously? What other interpersonal triggers and cultural factors bear on this approach to clinical communication? Is this type of drawing, selective, schematic, in-the-moment and interwoven with text as it is, able to provide a quicker, or deeper, understanding for the patient or colleague?

A first stage of this research is a study into health professionals’ experiences of drawing. Using a phenomenological approach, the researchers developed a method combining semi-structured interviews with prompts to make exemplar drawings accompanied by commentary. Reflecting on the intellectual, ethical and methodological rationales for this research design and participant group, this provocation will consider some emergent themes, illustrated by drawings. It considers the value of such drawing practices in conveying technical information, especially in the face of anxiety and distress, and the potential of this type of drawing to represent selected information in a way that can be both contextualised and personalised.

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How to Cite
Lyon, P., & Turland, M. (2017). Manual Drawing in clinical communication: understanding the role of clinical mark-making. Visual Methodologies, 5(1), 39-44.
Special Issue: Fourth International Visual Methods Conference
Author Biographies

Philippa Lyon, University of Brighton

Research Fellow

College of Arts and Humanities

Martha Turland, University of Brighton

Senior Lecturer

School of Humanities

College of Arts and Humanities

University of Brighton