Category Archives: creativity

Get ready to be awed…

Here’s a series of 4 videos by The New York Times about Antarctica. Watch the 4th video, ‘Under A Cracked Sky,’ and swim with seals, explore ice caves and float above the seabed crawling with life.

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


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.

Arts in Health Care Program at Shand Medical Center, FL…


A number of years ago when I first read about integrating the art in healthcare, I read the story how the arts program at Shand Hospital, University of Florida, got started.

Now, there are a number of comprehensive art programs throughout the US, but the AIM Program at Shand Hospital is one of the first I read about and piqued my interest in incorporating creativity into patient care.

The Arts in Medicine (AIM) Program at Shand Hospital started with a dream by a nurse-visual artist, Mary Rockwood Lane, and physician-poet,  John Graham-Pole.  For Mary, the desire to incorporate art-making directly into patient care stems from her personal experience of healing through engaging in the creative process – painting in her case.  She states in one of her articles, “The creative process transformed my life. It was not a 1-hour-per-week visit to a health provider.”  In her case, it was engaging in the creative process that helped her heal, and is the primary topic and purpose of this blog.  Because she is a nurse, she felt compelled to bring the healing power of art to others, i.e, patients.  I, too, am compelled and driven to do the same – to bring the creative process directly to patients, families and healthcare staff.  The physician, John Graham-Pole, had the vision of artists working with students at the medical school. 

Focus now on present day…Shand’s AIM has visual artist-in-residence, musician-in-residence, dancer-in-residence, story teller-in-residence, and a theatre troupe-in-residence.  AIM has become part of the hospital’s infrastructure and mission.  The artists-in-residence work in a variety of units: the BMT unit, pediatric intensive care, diabetic adolescent unit, psychiatry, autistic  children, general oncology, medicine, gynecology, surgery, and mother-baby.

AIM at Shand’s Hospital is a shared vision between artists and nurses..the program is deeply integrated to nursing care, and the nurses are key participants in the program.  Nurses and physicians write prescriptions for creative interventions (art) just like writing a prescription for another treatment, activity or medication.  According to Mary Rockwood Lane, “the art is part of the nurse’s healing modalities in meeting patient outcomes.”  Nurses are the catalysts to help patients and families embrace creative expression in health care settings, and needs to incorporate creative interventions into patient/family care.

To learn more about the Arts in Medicine Program at Shand Hospital, do an internet search…there’s alot of information out there.

Here are excerpts from articles written by Mary Rockwood Lane, RN, PhD:

“…the hospital feels more sensitive, more caring, as a result of this art.”

“The creative process transformed my life…because I was a nurse, I felt compelled to bring the healing power of art to others, to initiate a new program, and to seek out professional allies and build clinically based liaisons.  I believed that, as a nurse, I could reach out and help others.”

“Creative Interventions have been shown to shorten hospital stays and decrease the use of pain medication dramatically.”

“Performances of music, dance, poetry, and theater are put on in the hospital lobby.  Patients are brought from their rooms, and families and staff stop; the music draws people toward its transformational power.  Patients, family, and staff alike leave relaxed and uplifted; they are changed and healed.”

“Patients who are visited by the AIM artists say their whole experience of being ill is changed forever.  They are more hopeful, happier, feel better, and have less pain.  This is true even if the patients do not engage in creative activities themselves but just watch the artists.”

Here are excerpts from an article written by John Graham-Pole, MD:

“The past decade has confirmed my belief that art plays a central role in serving the sick and the overtly healthy among us.  This marriage – the unifying of art and science in medicine – is a present and much needed reality.  It offers a lasting antidote to the epidemic dis-ease of body, mind and spirit…it is no accident we use the word art to describe both the creating of works of beautiful form and the providing of skilled compassionate care.  Art ta[s, for each of us, whatever our circumstances, a deep well of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  It is indispensable to our lives, and to our total health.  Where more apt to invest in it and ensure its flowering than in our nation’s hospitals?”

Although both health care profesionals cited above have written many articles, the excepts are from 2 articles…email me if you’d like the references. Read again the “Science Supporting Creativity in Healthcare” located under Topics in the left sidebar of this blog.

And now…


“If you limit your choices to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” ~robert fritz