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London Hospital Brings Magic of the Silver Screen to Patients

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By Kristin Rothwell, NurseZone feature writer

Stuck in bed with two broken legs, John, a 14-year-old patient, hadn’t left his hospital ward in five weeks—that is until he was rolled down the hall, accompanied by his mother, to the then newly opened MediCinema where he watched the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.

Patients like John at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital Trust in London, England, have been escaping into the world of fantasy, comedy and drama thanks to the establishment of MediCinema in December of 1999, when the full-sized cinema opened just "a stone’s throw away" from the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin.

MediCinema was inspired by the need to enhance the quality of life for patients staying in the hospital. By bringing the magic of the silver screen to patients young and old, MediCinema provides a place away from the wards where patients can, for a few hours, forget about their ailments, illness or pain.

"Film provides a wonderful escape," said Eamon O’Sullivan, an intensive care nurse at St. Thomas’. "Patients might wait from one visiting time to the next with little to occupy them in between. Some patients don’t get any visitors at all. The chance to share the experience of seeing a film in a beautiful cinema is such a boost to them."

The fully-equipped cinema offers state-of-the-art Dolby surround sound, a big screen, retractable tiered seating for 100 ambulatory patients, their families and care providers (most of whom are nurses), as well as spaces for 10 wheelchairs and six beds.

"The patients are delighted to be able to watch a film off the wards in the all-encompassing cinema environment," said Christine Hill, chief executive of the MediCinema project, which became the nominated charity of UGC Cinemas (a European cinema chain) and the Walt Disney Company (Europe). "The medical staff in turn is delighted with the therapeutic benefits that MediCinema brings."

Red Carpet Service

Cheryl Hay, a registered general nurse who often works at Medicinema, said that the nurses who provide care during the MediCinema screenings are there to ensure patient safety before and after the movie begins.

When the nurses first arrive at MediCinema, Hay explained that their first duty is to make sure the resuscitation cart (a.k.a. resus trolley) is well-stocked with basic medical equipment, including a portable defibrillator and an oxygen tank.

She explained that once the patients begin arriving, the nurses welcome them to the cinema and check that their medical ticket (a brief version of the patient’s recent or relevant medical details) has been correctly filled out by the senior nurse on the ward. If nurses are unsure about any of the information provided, they contact the ward for further details. Since the nurses do not keep a supply of first line drugs on-hand, they, instead, contact the intensive therapy/treatment unit team for assistance in the event of a patient arrest.

She said nurses also act as ‘ushers’ – making sure that patients are seated comfortably and pointing out where the bathroom facilities are located.

"Throughout the film, we consistently check back on patients to ensure that everything is OK," said Hay.

Going to the Movies

One week before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the movie title used in the United Kingdom) opened in England, tickets to a free screening at MediCinema were distributed among the children’s wards at the trust.

"We made lots of very sick children very happy indeed," said MediCinema manager Mark Hennessy, who added that parents and hospital staff also had the opportunity to get a sneak-peak of the much anticipated film. "There were a number of serious renal cases and others recovering from serious surgery who had willed themselves to get better in order to attend."

While the pediatric patients have enjoyed such films as Harry Potter, Shrek, X-Men and Monsters Inc., the older patients have enjoyed seeing Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Meet the Parents, The Thomas Crown Affair, Charlie’s Angels, Enigma and America’s Sweethearts, among many other film titles.

"Wherever possible, we try to obtain films that are still at the cinema and not yet released on video—avoiding wherever possible fatigue and ‘oh yes, great film, saw it last week’ syndrome," said Hennessy.

However, Hennessy said that was not the case when MediCinema screened the film classic Grease.

"We couldn’t stop [the audience] from singing in the back row," he said.

Hay, who has seen first-hand how the theatre experience has helped patients take their minds off of their health concerns, has also seen it bring patients together with their friends and family.

"So many relatives don’t like hospitals [but] MediCinema entices people to visit relatives, as it provides them with a ‘normal’ social environment," she said. "I truly believe that MediCinema is a magnificent idea."

Since MediCinema debuted in 1999, several hospitals have expressed interest in establishing cinemas in hospitals across the U.K. Academy award winner Kevin Spacey and Helen Mirren, most recently known for her role as Mrs. Tingle in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, among other celebrities, are endorsing this idea for hospitals worldwide. For more information about this program, contact Christine Hill, executive director of MediCinema by e-mail at

Apr. 26, 2002. © 2002. All Rights Reserved.

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