Using Creativity and the Arts to Heal Patients (and staff)…

What is creativity?  What does it mean to be creative?  The word or phrase is usually associated with artists and artist types, be they painters, dancers, musicians, writers, crafters and comedians.  It’s a word that is becoming commonplace…a buzz word relevant to the times and uttered by businesses, academics, the public and by those you least expect to murmur ‘creative.’  Everyone  is using  ‘creativity’ and ‘creative’ to describe a way of strategizing and problem-solving work and personal goals.  It’s no different in healthcare.

Here’s a few thoughts and definitions on creativity…

Creativity is marked by the ability or power to create,  to bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new. ~Mirriam-Webster

The ability to make new combinations of social worth.  ~John Haefele (CEO and entrepreneur)

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.  ~Albert Einstein 

Creativity is fundamental to human experience. ~David Bohm

 And here are my thoughts on creativity and the arts in healthcare.  Through exposure and participation in the creative process and the arts, it promotes unity within oneself and with others, be it families, spouses, extended family, and all of those who connect with us.  Creativity and the arts ultimately embraces and promotes social peace.  Engaging in creative activities, whether actively or passively, brings forth…

  • compassion
  •  tolerance
  • kindness
  • harmony
  • expansion
  • growth
  • healing on multiple dimensions: body-mind-soul-emotion
  • collaboration
  • respect

This multi-dimensional healing begins on an individual level and ripples out to include neighborhoods, states, national and global communities.  What happens when you toss a pebble or small stone into calm waters?  It creates ripples or waves in the water  and radiates outward until the energy of the wave dissipates.  Creative activities creates creative energy and momentum, and all its associated benefits.

Creativity  isn’t just about thinking of new strategies to fix old problems or to heal old wounds.  It’s a different way of thinking, which brings about a new way of acting, behaving and interacting with others – it’s a natural and humanistic way of life.  By taking creative action, it can dramatically challenge our existing belief systems, our values, and encourage us to take risks we normally wouldn’t take (both in thought and action). 

Creative actions and creative interventions are what’s needed in healthcare…in patient care…in caring for healthcare professionals and staff…caring for local communities.

Creativity in Healthcare = Healing = Individual and Social Peace

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A Few Examples of Creative Programs in Healthcare…

Here’s how creativity and the creative process are being implemented in a few health systems.  In U.S. News (2006), a series of articles titled “The Fine Art of Healing the Sick”  highlights a growing trend of using the arts and the creative modalities to help patients alleivate stress, anxiety, provide diversional activities and to heal.  The side benefits of participating, whether active or passive,  vibrates out to include all persons within the healthcare organization…patients, families, healthcare professionals, para-professionals,  staff,  administration, consultants and local communities. 

Here’s a few examples of the methods used to integrate the arts into patient care (but read the U.S. News article!).  (Larson C. The Fine Art of Healing the Sick: Embracing the benefits of writing, music, and art. U.S. News/Best Health, June 5, 2006.)

 

1. A t the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine, which is a part of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, it provides music therapy and researches its effects on children with asthma and adults with cardiac and pulmonary problems, and treats the musicians with medical problems.

2. Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare has medical music therapists providing music therapy sessions to their pediatric patients during diagnostic testing.  The result?  No wiggling, quirming or crying during the test.  No need to repeat tests or extend employee work hours which ultimately saves money for the hospital.

3. Sutter Health System in Sacramento, California offers six writing groups a week through its Literature, Arts, and Medicine Program for patients, caregivers, and the local community.  Studies validate both writing and visual art plays a role in reducing pain and decrease physical symptoms of illness.  One physician who refers many patients to the writing group stated she had a patient with severe asthma and chronic lung disease joined the writing group has improved her symptoms and well-being.  Note: engaging in creative work does not cure physical illnesses, but helps heal on a multi-dimensional level: physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

These creative programs are part of a growing trend to incorporate writing, music and the visual arts into the clinical treatment of patients, a.k.a  patient care.  Here’s a few other creative interventions to incorporate into healthcare organizations:

  • Laughing Clubs
  • Artist-in-Residence program
  • Writing
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Humor
  • Creative exhibits with work created by patients, families, staff and healthcare professionals
  • Drumming circles
  • Indoor and outdoor gardens
  • Art at the bedside for patients and families

Remember, creative interventions are not just for patients and families.  Providing patient care, whether by nurses, physicians, PT, OT, counselors, social workers, patient transporters, dietary aides, housekeeping staff can be physically demanding, emotionally draining and sometimes thankless.  A creative healthcare organization takes care of not only patients, but also its professional and para-professional staff.

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