Picture Communication Tool - an aid to healthcare interactions
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History of the project

Staff working in a regional unit for plastic surgery and burns often found themselves working with patients whose first language was not English. The problems and anxiety this caused for patients and staff alike was immense. Although interpreters were brought in for important discussions (including consent to treatment), day to day life on the ward could be difficult. In particular, staff who spent the most time with patients and interacted regularly did not usually have access to interpreters. These drawings were originally designed to assist them and their patients with their interactions. After discussion with staff, as well as patients, a list of words was compiled for the first sets of drawings.


It transpired that elsewhere in the hospital, other staff, for example the speech and language therapists were working on or needing a similar tool. They were working with patients unable to speak, for instance, because of strokes or facial surgery, while others were working with patients with learning disabilities who found it hard to articulate their thoughts. Discussion then took place together about having something useful for all. It was decided to continue with the drawings, rather than using photographs. It was felt the photos could be frightening, but drawings could be more 'cartoon-like' and therefore easier to look at. In addition, photos were not so easily printed. It was envisaged that over time, drawings would be added as needs were identified.

Personal care male


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