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Heart exhibition helps put minds at ease in Morriston's cardiac intensive care

Image shows a group of staff alongside a corridor wall poster.

Art for hearts’ sake is putting minds at ease for families whose loved ones are recovering from major cardiac surgery at Morriston Hospital.

Entering the Cardiac Intensive Therapy Unit can be an unnerving experience for anyone unfamiliar with its bewildering array of complex, endlessly beeping machines, breathing tubes and the regular sound of alerts.

Main pic above. From back: Andrew Jones, specialist registrar in cardiothoracic surgery; Ross Phillips, Cardiac ITU matron; Matthew Paratheppathickal, staff nurse; Dr Sameena Ahmed, consultant cardiac anaesthetist and clinical lead for Cardiac ITU; Precious Rallos, staff nurse; and Michelle Porter, Cardiac ITU senior sister.

Now a large and colourful interpretive poster on the wall leading from the main corridor into the ITU sets out everything in an easily understood way.

The poster highlights the equipment visitors will see in or around the patient, along with concise explanations in Welsh and English.

Michelle Porter, the Cardiac ITU senior sister who led the project, explained: “We have a really good relationship with visitors, relatives, and carers of the patients we look after.

Image shows a nurse standing alongside an intensive care bed. “But sometimes they are not prepared for the equipment that is attached to their loved ones and they can be quite fearful.

Senior sister Michelle Porter with some of the equipment that relatives will see when they visit their loved one

“When they ring up after a patient has had an operation, and we try to explain they are on the ventilator, having dialysis, or they still have the breathing tube in, they don’t always understand what that means.

“We wanted to give them information so that they could visualise the equipment attached to their relative, without making it scary.

“We thought that while they were coming here to visit their loved one, they could look at the poster to get an idea of the things they will see, either attached to the patient or around the patient.

“It's to reassure them that this is all normal equipment that is required after open heart surgery and that some patients require more equipment and more interventions – and that is normal as well.”

Michelle, with the support of colleagues including consultants, matron Ross Phillips and the wider Cardiac ITU team, worked closely with Swansea-based graphic artist Simon Goss of SiGGA Design.

She sent Simon photographs of equipment used in the unit, from which he created digital versions, with a softer appearance to make them seem less stark and, potentially, scary.

Image shows a detail of a wall poster. But it’s not just the visual aspects that have been captured.

“I’ve included sounds on the poster because, although we try to keep the unit quiet and calm, there is an awful lot of noise from these machines, with beeps and alerts,” Michelle said. “It’s to reassure relatives this is normal.”

Dr Sameena Ahmed, consultant cardiac anaesthetist and clinical lead for Cardiac ITU, added: “It is rather daunting as a patient’s relative to see your loved ones surrounded by a lot of medical equipment and machines.

“It is also difficult to take in all the information provided by the medical and nursing teams in these stressful situations.

“We hope that an easy-to-understand poster will give more information to the patients and their relatives and make their stay less stressful.”

Audrey Williams from Carmarthen, who has been visiting husband Jeff in Cardiac ITU following his open-heart surgery, said she found the poster to be very helpful.

“It gives an insight into all the sounds and beeps and alarms that are going off constantly and can be quite worrying,” she said.

“When your relative is there, it’s quite frightening when they are hooked up to tubes and drains. I would encourage all relatives to look at it.

“Even if you just take half of it in, that is a lot more than you would otherwise have known.”

Audrey said nurses at the bedside also encouraged relatives to ask questions, either in person when they visited or on the phone.

She had nothing but praise for consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Pankaj Kumar and the entire cardiac team.

“The care is second to none,” she said. “Jeff has been really well looked after. Everyone is so open and caring.”

The project was supported by charitable funds, money donated by grateful patients, relatives and friends to the Cardiac ITU Fund.

This is one of hundreds of funds that come under the umbrella of Swansea Bay Health Charity, the health board’s official charity.

Money raised is used for equipment, staff training, research and special projects for the benefit of our patients and staff, above and beyond what the NHS can provide.

Cardiac ITU matron Ross Phillips said: “We get all sorts of charitable donations, whether it be donations from patients and family members, or people raising money through events like runs and climbing mountains.

“We think about what will benefit patients in the long term. Having their relatives at ease when they are in an ITU setting is very important.

“Thanks to charitable funds we have created this fantastic visual display of what to expect in ITU.

“It can be a daunting environment and we want to put people’s minds at ease that this equipment is quite normal to us, it’s something we use day in, day out, and it is for the patient’s safety.

Image shows a group of staff alongside a corridor wall poster. “It’s also good for education purposes for our student nurses and new nurses to the area. It’s an example of why the donations we receive are invaluable.”

Left: Pankaj Kumar with Michelle Porter and Dr Sameena Ahmed

Mr Kumar, who is also Morriston Hospital’s Deputy Medical Director, said Cardiac ITU could be at best bewildering and at worst a frightening place for patients and visitors alike.

“The whole project was designed to orientate and familiarise patients as well as their relatives and loved ones visiting in the CITU after open heart surgery as well as other major operations with the very unfamiliar and almost alien equipment that can be seen in a critical care area,” he added.

“After speaking to the clinical team and patient focus group, Michelle took the leadership required to secure the funding, designing, and getting to the printing and implementation stages of the information poster.

“That speaks volumes not just for Michelle’s leadership, but also the compassion and empathy she always demonstrates towards everybody passing through CITU clinical area.

“Michelle deserves the recognition for what she has achieved. I am really thankful to her for taking a lead on this project. All the feedback has been really positive.”


If this story has inspired you to raise funds for your local NHS then Swansea Bay Health Charity would love to hear from you. Email the charity team at:

Swansea Bay Health Charity (registered charity number 1122805) is the official charity of Swansea Bay University Health Board. We use charitable funds to improve patient care and staff wellbeing throughout the health board by providing equipment, staff training, funding research and completing special projects, which go above and beyond what the NHS is able to provide.

For more information, visit the charity’s website:

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