Blog Archive

Thursday 10 September 2020

Crossing the River Lethe

My second collection of poetry, Crossing the River Lethe, is here! 

Crossing the River Lethe - Book Cover

Available as a paperback or kindle e-book

I'd hoped to run some launch events but it appears Covid-19 has other ideas for now. 

Please do share, I'm a one man band not a large corporate publishing house, every little bit helps. 

If you liked my first book, Heart on the Mountain, I hope you like this second collection? 

Best wishes


Thursday 20 April 2017

The Emotional Labour of Care Poetry Project

The Emotional Labour of Care Poetry Project arose from a previous project I wrote and produced for the Patient | Carer Community (PCC) in 2014 called, Voices of a Patient. With the support of Jools Symons (Patient and Public Involvement Manager) and Nicola Womersley (Patient | Carer Community Coordinator) I went on to direct a short film as a outcome of that project with members of the PCC and Dr Kate Granger MBE.

The project and film caused quite a stir. It offers a patient/carer voice on the experience of healthcare written by patients and carers and performed by them as well. From that project sprang the idea of a more ambitious project borrowing a theme explored by healthcare professionals called the emotional labour of care.1

Once again with the support of Jools and Nicola I wrote a substantial funding bid that would enable two facilitators to run, evaluate and produce learning resources as key outputs starting in March 2016 and finishing 12 months later in 2017.  We invited Karen Hoffman to join me as co-facilitator. Karen has an extensive background of patient involvement. As a practicing Counsellor she also brought key communication skills to the project that would free me up to concentrate on the poetry aspect of the workshops.

Participants listening to shared experience during a poetry workshop
The Emotional Labour of Care Poetry Workshop
The concept of the emotional labour of care describes the emotional work an individual, a nurse most often, but applicable to anyone who works in healthcare, must put into maintaining a caring, compassionate, and brave face. That emotional work or labour can exact a cost when confronted with the distress and adversity of looking after people in the most vulnerable moments of their lives over a long period of time.

This poetry project aimed to bring patients, carers, students and healthcare professionals together to explore via the lens of the art and humanities the concept of the emotional labour of care. I offer that all those actors experience the work of the emotional labour of care. Rarely do we have the opportunity to acknowledge that work, let alone share it with one another.

As a poet and workshop facilitator I use poetry with a diverse range of people, many of whom don't feel that they – get poetry, or that poetry gets them.2 It doesn't take long for those same people to realise, with the use of some simple creative writing exercises, to realise that we suffuse our everyday language with the building blocks of poetry – metaphor, similes, rhythm, and rhyme. 

When I listen to my fellow patients and carers at the PCC I hear those very same building blocks as they describe the ways in which they experience they respective health conditions. When I listen to healthcare professionals I hear those very same building blocks as they describe the ways in which they experience their practice of healthcare.

Poetry Workshop Participants Studying a Poem
The Emotional Labour of Care Poetry Workshop

This workshop aimed to offer the arts and humanities as a way to give voice to patients, carers, and health care professionals, from both acute and long term healthcare settings, as a way of connecting with and making sense of this shared emotional labour of care.

The medium of the arts and humanities would, we hoped, offer participants a shared platform to shine a light on healthcare as a shared experience. What we encountered often surprised, raise questions, or sparked an affinity for a different way of looking at things.

I think the arts and humanities, paraphrasing the famous Heineken advert, can reach the parts of healthcare that the language of the bio-medical can find hard to reach. The arts and humanities can give patients, carers, healthcare professionals and wider society another voice and medium to understand our experience of health from a wider narrative horizon.

In finding that voice or means of expression, all can gain a renewed a sense of perspective on healthcare. We can begin to describe what has happened in our own way and in doing so begin to explore the potential for shared understanding and shared decision making.

Just as significant, the arts and humanities enable us to share with others what we have experienced. To describe the path we have walked and the journey we face. It can also allow others to walk beside us too even if they can't walk in our shoes. A therapist I once worked with said of my poetry, ‘You know what Philip, your poetry isn't just for you. Your poems also offer a window into your experience.’

Poetry workshop participant studying a poem
The Emotional Labour of Care Poetry Workshop

It didn't matter if the participants felt they knew anything about poetry or even liked all poetry we explored. We aimed to show that healthcare professionals, patients and carers use the building blocks of poetry, metaphor and simile, all the time when we talk about health, life, and death. We just don't recognise it sometimes.

We await evaluations from the workshops and plan to offer the outcomes from this project to create a learning resource for students across the School of Medicine, at the University of Leeds.

We hope that we can build on this project to continue to offer innovative and well conceived projects to students that supports their appreciation that healthcare and our respective experience of it happens within a wider context. That the arts and humanities can shine light upon our experience of healthcare in a way that reveals the human being behind the mask of the actor within its play. 



Wednesday 22 March 2017

Interview on A Writer's Blog

I recently had the pleasure to spend the morning in the company of Janet Cummings who has started her own blog site called, A Writer's Blog.

She asked if she could interview me after reading a copy of my first collection of poetry, Heart on the Mountain. She hoped to explore my inspirations, my writing process, and gain a preview of my forthcoming collection of poetry, River As Blood.

Here's Janet's ever so slightly edited transcript of that interview.

Please do let Janet know what you think by leaving a comment.

Thank you Janet.

Friday 28 October 2016


I have learnt and practiced the skills of mentorship over two decades in both my formal and freelance work roles. Mentorship shares many skills with good facilitation, coaching and practice education. The mentor will facilitate and guide the mentee to find their way forward to acheive their aspirations, meet their goals, and develop their practice.

Mentoring brings to mind a relationship between a senior colleague with a junior in the workplace who uses his or her greater knowledge and experience to support the development of that junior. In my career that form of mentoring would describe my role with established colleagues, new staff and students on placement.

Image by Alejandro Escamilla
Mentors who act in a developmental role, as I do now, must take care not to cross into training or tutoring, something that may happen on occasions within the workplace. Developmental mentoring helps the mentee develop new skills and abilities. The mentor acts as a resource for the mentee's growth. Mentoring also tends to take place over a longer duration than coaching arrangements.

The mentor will first build trust and openness with the mentee with affective communication skills based upon a set of values that demonstrate unconditional positive regard, curiosity, respect, rigour, honesty and reciprocity.

In essence you could say the mentor becomes a critical friend to the mentee. Through out the course of their work together the mentor will witness the mentee's success's and failures as they develop their skills and build their strengths. The mentor must relinquish the tendency to rescue the mentee as they will, at times, stumble forward and make mistakes.

The mentor, in this role, must respect the journey, or the process, of learning that the mentee will gain as they attempt to meet their goals. Ultimately, the mentee will take on the skills the mentor has offered. By doing so the mentee becomes a more capable and resilent character as a consequence. This part of the role often goes unstated as a aim or outcome by the mentor but it marks the difference between excellent mentoring practice versus the mediocre.

The mentor ought to abide by a credo that the needs and wishes of the mentee come first and forthmost in the relationship.

Mentors draw upon a range of models, skills and tools of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing to meet the needs of the mentee. It can never become a prescriptive exercise. Each mentee brings the totality of themselves to the relationship. The skilled mentor must recognise the unique qualities of character they bring and work from that point.

Mentoring, like coaching, begins with an agreement about how the mentor and mentee will work together. Often with a simple contract with a focus on the stated aim and needs of the mentee. Together, they will agree dates and times when they will meet, decide the expected duration of the mentoring relationship, the length of time for each session, and agree other mediums of contact such as email, phone or video calls.

In the end, mentoring requires both the mentor and mentee to commit to the task that unites them, namely the developmental goals of the mentee.

All the best


Telephone or WhatsApp: +44 (0)7528 959091

Monday 3 October 2016

AfterTrauma Blog - The Rocky Road to Recovery

Well I thought that I had written my last blog for AfterTrauma but not long after that piece I wrote an email to Nicole, who looks after the website, my thoughts on what I think presents the biggest challenge for survivors of significant trauma once they leave the acute hospital setting. She got back to me suggesting that it would make an excellent blog. So, you can find it here on AfterTrauma in association with Barts Centre for Trauma Sciences.

Please do get in touch to let me know your thoughts.

All the best


Telephone or WhatsApp: +44 (0)7528 959091

Wednesday 10 August 2016

AfterTrauma Blog – Making Sense: Trauma and Identity

In this my final guest post for AfterTrauma I explore the challenges people who have experienced significant trauma must face. Surviving massive trauma confronts the individual with some fundamental and profound questions. Questions that can lead or force that individual to make big lifestyle changes. Some positive, others not so positive.

The Space Between by Philip Sheridan
The Space Between by Philip Sheridan

The transition home from acute hospital care to the long term chronic care within ones community can prove incredibly difficult. Many factors can act to support or disable the individual during this difficult period. One that can last months and drift into years.

For some people the crisis of trauma and its survival can present one with a renewed sense of opportunity and growth. For other people, the crisis of trauma can present challenges that prove beyond the individuals ability to cope. When this happens it can lead to a downward spiral of concomitant losses; loss of employment, loss of familial bonds, substance misuse, and serious mental illness.

Crossing the River Lethe by Philip Sheridan
Crossing the River Lethe by Philip Sheridan

I explore and suggest the arts and humanities as a way to give voice to survivors and health care professionals (both acute and long term healthcare settings) as a way of connecting with and making sense of this difficult period of change.

Please do get in touch to let me know your thoughts.

All the best


Get in touch:
Tel or WhatsApp: +44 (0)7528 959091


LinkedIn Profile

Monday 18 July 2016

Poems for the PATHWAYS Project

In October 2015 Bright Sparks Theatre Arts Company in collaboration with the Patient | Carer Community (PCC) at Leeds Institute of Medical Education, the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, commissioned me to facilitate a series of poetry workshops for medical students exploring the lived experience of people and carers with dementia.

Hosted at Inkwell Arts, Leeds, a safe, creative and accessable space that challenges the stigma of mental health and celebrates the diversity of its participants. Over the course of three workshops in discussion with the students, carers and people with dementia I produced three poems based upon those conversations.

The Space Between by Philip Sheridan
Read by Cynthia Rover

The Space Between - Poem by Philip Sheridan from philip sheridan on Vimeo.

The resulting two films produced by Greg Brauns showcase the wonderful creative atmosphere of exploration that resulted from this innovative use of the arts and humanities in medical education.

Crossing the River Lethe by Philip Sheridan
Read by Ros Lewis

Crossing the River Lethe - Poem by Philip Sheridan from philip sheridan on Vimeo.

Find out more about all the patient and carer involvement work of the PCC at the Leeds Institute of Medical Education (LIME), School of Medicine, University of Leeds.

We'd love to see you.