Virtual Gallery


  • What about the art made you think that it is expressing a pain experience?
    • In my search for paintings depicting physical pain, this piece titled “If Only” by Korean-Australian artist Eugenie Lee caught my attention. There are many elements in this painting that lead me to believe it is expressing a pain experience, most strikingly is the sterile, white state of the environment the person is in. There is something very medical about the bleak walls, stark overhead lighting, plastic table and chairs in a state of disarray, and the window in which a shadowed figure donning a surgical mask is peering in at the individual hunched over on the table. The seated fetal position the person is in, seemingly having their hands clutched to their abdomen, is representative of the almost instinctual response we have to pain or otherwise threatening stimuli – to bellow over and protect the vital organs from harm. One aspect of this painting that also stood out to me is that the focal point of the painting is this person, and they are facing opposite to us. There is an element of shame that comes along with physical pain – especially if it is chronic, or if the individual experiencing it happens to have an illness that is not immediately apparent to the observer. The amorphous, almost web-like shadow under the table also imparts a feeling of shame. It feels as though the person staring through the window is looking in on this person without offering aid – leaving them to grapple with their pain on their own in this desolate place.
  • How did the interpretation of your chosen artwork help you to understand the human pain experience?
    • This piece allowed me to further understand the turmoil that comes along with physical pain. Pain can rip us away from our support system – not allowing us to participate in whatever activities fulfilled us previously. In a society that values productivity to the point of burnout, not physically being able to achieve the standards placed on us makes us feel unworthy, lazy, and like we are bad spouses, friends, parents, etc. We can become disconnected from the world around us – many a doctors appointment, diagnostic test, etc leaving us feeling as though we are a medical spectacle – and it can be a very lonely thing. Our pain can engulf us, leaving very little left of who we are. Medical professionals also don’t always support patients in the ways they need – perhaps represented in this painting by the person in the window who is merely observing the patient in their time of need rather than being with them in the same room to help support them through it. We can sometimes lose the ability to connect with patients in an effort to keep things sterile/by the books. It is important to not lose our ability to offer patients support in our efforts to treat them – as the inner turmoil that coincides with the experience of physical pain can not be ignored. It is our responsibility to not only treat the health condition, but the person as a whole in order to deliver the best possible care to our patients.
  • Develop one question for your classmates about the artwork (content, interpretation, etc.)
    • My question to my peers would be: In what ways can you plan to show up for patients experiencing pain to ensure you are treating them as a whole person and not just a health condition?


  1. I would like to say that I can show up for my patients in their time of need by accepting them where they are without expectations. By accepting where they are and letting them tell me and show me what they are capable of they can feel free to experience whatever they are going through on their own schedule. Patients can have off/on days and letting them know that that is okay can also help so that patients can have realistic expectations of themselves and their progress.

  2. I think with every patient it is really important to check on their mental health and where they are daily. You put it perfectly, Courtney. Pain can have a shuge effect on a patient’s support system and ADL’s. I hope that I can keep that in mind and check in on my patient and let them know that others care about them.

  3. One thing that I would want to do is to go deeper into their history. Not just medical history, but also psychosocial history. I also would encourage patients to talk about anything else that they can relate to their pain and symptoms. I also would emphasize on patient education in a way that they learn ways to analyze their situation, condition, interactions and how it all can relate. I would understand their roles and expectations in the society and their occupation and how it plays up with how the body is moving and reacting. This may help me better understand and hopefully may help the patients as well.

  4. Courtney, I think you did a beautiful job interpreting this piece. I especially like your comment that their is an element of shame that comes along with physical pain. I think that is very true, and that shame about being in pain can influence how patients communicate with their doctors and their support system and that we as providers should work to help our patients overcome those feelings (or direct them to counseling if it is a serious issue) so that they feel like they don’t have to hide how they are feeling from HCP or their family/friends.

    In response to your question, I think that one of the easiest things that we can do to help ourselves avoid only treating a patient as a patient and not a person is to ask the patient about things going on in their life that aren’t “how is your pain today”. I think that part of caring about patients as a person is caring about their lives outside of the medical condition that they are seeing you for and I think that asking them about their pet or their hobbies or what they did over the weekend can help further our ability to treat the person. The key is to genuinely listen and care when they give their answers as well.

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