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‘Transforming the patient experience through cinema’

15th Apr 2024

Blog by Vanessa Sloane, deputy chief nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

As I reflect on my 37-year journey in nursing, I believe some of my favourite memories of recent times have come through our partnership with MediCinema and seeing how the magic of film meets the needs of patients, their families, and our care teams.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has always embraced innovation, and in 2014 its CW+ charity set about fundraising to open an in-hospital cinema in partnership with specialist charity, MediCinema.


In 2015, that dream became a reality, and for close to nine years the cinema has been a haven for patients of all ages seeking an escape from the complexities of hospital life.


MediCinema offers patients and their families respite from the ward and the challenges of being in a hospital.

Nothing can replace the shared experience of cinema and the social connection that arises from it

Making use of a previously ‘void’ space within the hospital that wasn’t suitable as a clinical space, the charity constructed, equipped, and has managed the modern cinema since its inception.


Especially designed to support patients in hospital beds, wheelchairs, or with other healthcare needs, the cinema provides patients and their families with a genuine, immersive theatre experience.


Once inside the cinema, with its bright seats, conversations naturally move away from health concerns, allowing patients and their families to share in the joy of film and escapism.


Beyond the clinical discourse, patients find solace and comfort in the shared cinema experience. Adolescents can have the same experiences as their friends who are not in hospital, children can enjoy a moment of normality, and adults discover a haven away from their health concerns.


This wouldn’t be possible without people investing their time into this initiative. Nurses are paid by MediCinema to work cinema-specific shifts, supporting patients to access the cinema and be reassured their healthcare needs will be met throughout the screening.


Volunteers and supporters also play a crucial role in enhancing the MediCinema experience, and we’ve been lucky enough to have various Hollywood actors and producers host Q&As and bring gifts for children before screenings.


All of MediCinema’s screenings mirror the diversity of our patient population, offering the latest and greatest films for everyone’s tastes and preferences.


They also run personal screenings in sensitive situations for those patients unable to mix with others for immunosuppressed individuals and also for those receiving palliative or end-of-life care, while the cinema itself is equipped to support patients who are bed bound or have mobility needs, as well as those more able.


For hospital staff and volunteers, our cinema has become more than a physical space; it’s a community. Staff screenings during events like LGBTQT+ month, International Nurses Day, International Women’s Day, Black History Month and others create a sense of belonging.


In these moments the space becomes a special community space, offering hospital colleagues an escape from the stresses of caring for patients and a unique bonding experience.


My time at the MediCinema is punctuated by some very special moments that are etched in my memory.


At a screening of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, I was supporting an older patient in the bed section at the back of the theatre and afterwards she told me all about how the film had evoked memories of her childhood, her father going off to war, and her memories of him when he came home.


She became very emotional about it; the film had really resonated with her because that was her story, she could relate to the emotion of the film.


She really perked up in that moment, transforming from the tired and ill patient that had entered the room into a new, full of life, talkative woman with a rich history and story to tell.


It was something she was going to go back to the ward and talk to her nurses and friends about, and it brought meaning, purpose, and interest to her life that week.


It reminded me of how transformational cinema can be when we are able to escape from the here and now, and be transported somewhere new, as well as the personal moment and connection you have when you share a moment like that together.


On another occasion, Yasmin, a terminally ill young-adult we were supporting, was absolutely desperate to see the film Bohemian Rhapsody.


She was in the last few weeks of her life, and while the film was due out later that year, no one knew if she would live that long.


Using their contacts and friends in the industry, MediCinema was able to arrange a special early screening of the film for Yasmin and a small group of her friends and family, and we made sure to make an event of it.


Knowing that may have been one the last good memories she could enjoy with the people that mattered most to her, and how important that time was for her and her loved ones, is a really special memory that will stand out when I look back on my 37 years of nursing.


These instances go beyond healthcare; they are stories of kindness, connection, empathy, and shared humanity – everything that I love about my job.


When we first set out to bring a MediCinema to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital back in 2014, I’m not sure I would have believed you if you told me then how transformative this initiative would turn out to be.

Once inside the cinema, with its bright seats, conversations naturally move away from health concerns

Overcoming those initial fundraising and logistical challenges pale in comparison to the motivation and joy it has brought to colleagues and the positivity and energy it infuses into patients.


While many patients will have a tablet or laptop to watch films on, nothing can replace the shared experience of cinema and the social connection that arises from it.


Having a dedicated, clinically adapted and equipped space that patients and their loved ones can enjoy together has not only transformed our ability to bolster patient wellbeing but shown how vitally important this can be to a patient’s recovery or palliative journey.


So, while it will soon be time for me to hang up my nursing uniform and retire after a wonderful career, my support and advocacy for MediCinema will long continue.


I hope more trusts will explore bringing the power of cinema to their hospitals, and that more nurses take up the opportunity to work with MediCinema and bring movie magic to even more patients.


Vanessa Sloane, deputy chief nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


This blog originally appeared in The Nursing Times.


A typical MediCinema screening at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow


Hospital patients enjoying MediCinema screenings