The Healing Arts Includes Art

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Art has a place in hospitals

When you think of the facility you work in, you probably picture your coworkers and your patients first. You probably don’t envision the environment, specifically what pictures adorn the walls, what sculptures sit in the hallway, or the interior decoration.

But take a minute to give those things a second thought.

Does art have a place in health care?

Art in a health care setting, like paintings, murals, and 3-dimensional art can reduce stress in staff and thus prevent burnout. Artworks increase feelings of calmness and create a less institutional environment.

Not only do they influence the mood of your workplace, but importantly, art has a significant relationship to the outcomes of your patients.

Roughly 50 percent of hospital settings now have arts programs in place. That’s because including art in a care setting has been shown to improve patient and family ratings, to decrease anxiety and stress, and even to reduce pain. For children who are ill, art in a hospital setting can feel colorful, inviting, and fun — ultimately, it can help make the facility experience much less intimidating to them.

Basically, art in health care doesn’t just make for a pleasant background, but can instead be an important part of the overall treatment experience.

Art in health care has evolved

As more data on the effect of art in health care has been collected, the quality of art to the patient experience has improved.

Today, arts programs take an evidence-based approach. Whereas in the past art in health settings was not necessarily done with specific therapeutic benefits as a goal, it’s now implemented with the latest research on patient outcomes in mind.

For example, patients have reported negative responses to art that was ambiguous in meaning or had negative connotations, so many programs avoid installing art that falls in these categories.

Patient involvement in arts activities

And art is not just one-way observation from patients. Many hospitals offer programs and classes, either one-on-one or in groups that let patients experience the therapeutic aspects of creating. This can be through visual arts, like painting or drawing, or through theater or creative writing activities. Programs like these provide an important outlet for patients and let them focus on something other than the stressful health situation they’re facing.

Where do nurses fit in?

So as a nurse, how are you involved? First, your attitude toward art in your facility is key.

If you’re indifferent to it, you’re missing out on an opportunity to help your patients.  Know what programs are available and encourage them to participate. It can be as simple as showing them a particularly beautiful picture, or directing them to a revolving installation.

What’s important is that you’re an advocate for their experience, and that includes the stress-relieving, soothing elements of art.

If you work at a facility that doesn’t currently have an arts program, consider campaigning for one. Share the wealth of available research that points to better outcomes with arts programs, and don’t be shy about reaching out to community arts organizations, who often form partnerships with hospitals and other care facilities.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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