The Reflection Room: Creating space for reflection and shared storytelling

Categories: Care.

At the 2015 Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Conference in Ottawa, Saint Elizabeth invited attendees to visit the Reflection Room to pause, recharge and remember an experience with hospice palliative care over the past year. (To honour the reflections shared by visitors to the Reflection Room, we created an online book that can viewed here in both English and French).

The design of the Reflection Room was focused on creating a welcoming and relaxing environment and was informed by research findings on spiritual care by Dr. Paul Holyoke, Director of the Saint Elizabeth Research Centre and Dr. Barry Stephenson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Many elements within the room, such as the use of sound for relaxation and the inclusion of elements of nature, were based on themes that emerged from the spirituality research. The intention for the Reflection Room was to adopt a new approach to engage people in reflection and storytelling focused on experiences with hospice palliative care.

With the spirituality research in mind, the Reflection Room was also designed to be an immersive experience inspired by the public engagement installations of artist Candy Chang, whose ‘Before I die…’ series captured the attention of people around the globe. The invitation to share a reflection at the CHPCA conference was meant to provide a place for people to honour a memory of a patient, family or colleague, or to a share a memory from personal experience.

Over the course of the three-day conference, many visitors to the room had the opportunity to take a few quiet moments, as well as to write reflections on a card and pin it to the ribbon wall. After the conference, the reflection cards were scanned, transcribed and collected into a book for sharing within the hospice palliative care community. Through the process of transcribing the reflections, and designing the book, a number of themes were observed.

  • Human experiences and “moments in time” were a focus—a conversation with a patient; playing on the floor with a child; receiving a note from a family member.
  • Relationships were at the centre of the stories whether with a patient, a colleague, a father, mother, brother, sister or friend. 
  • Experiences remain in our hearts even though years or decades have passed.
  • Visitors appreciated having a space to reflect and remember, and more opportunity for reflection within the practice of hospice palliative care would be welcomed.

What’s next?

Based on the overwhelming positive response to the Reflection Room, we are planning for future installations in 2016 and are considering the possibilities for upcoming conferences, as well as in hospice or hospital environments.

We would also like to invite the public to participate in Reflection Room experiences and are investigating smaller, ‘pop-up’ installations in public libraries, coffee shops, art galleries and shopping malls.

Finally, there is also an online version of the Reflection Room in development which will create a digital space for reflection and shared storytelling.

Link to the reflection from the CHPCA conference in our online book in both English and French here.

Karen Oikonen is a human-centred design researcher and service designer, and a research associate at Saint Elizabeth. Find her on Twitter at @KarenOikonen.

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