According to the NEA, “In the program, patients create a three-dimensional mixed-media art piece to convey a unique personal perspective on receiving a diagnosis of cancer and then experiencing treatments.”
The mixed-media piece “provides a way for unstructured expression of feelings and thoughts.”4 The NEA also points to an article published in The Lancet (May 2001) that discussed the creative output of several expressive arts programs implemented in the United Kingdom. In one, comic artists held a series of workshops with young patients at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Those workshops resulted in a comic book, HospiTales. Not only did this undertaking produce “interesting therapeutic and creative results” for the participants, the finished HospiTales promoted “a positive view of being in hospital, which makes it seem a less scary place for young patients.”5
Not surprisingly, the number of new arts in healthcare initiatives has continued to grow. For two months, beginning in August, for example, the Mayo Clinic Center for Humanities in Medicine began a pilot program in conjunction with the Rochester Arts Center in Minnesota to bring bedside art making to the Hematology Department. The Hematology Department, in particular, appears to be the ideal place to conduct such a pilot program. “People are stuck in the hospital with a lot of uncertainty, stress, and discomfort,” says Mayo’s Curry. “Making art can give people back a sense of control and relieve some anxiety.”
At the outset, Education Coordinator Michele Heidel of the Rochester Art Center will work with the nursing staff to identify 20 patients who might be interested in participating in what have been termed “art interventions.” Patients will paint and draw with professional artist-educators, who will offer participants a variety of media such as oil pastels, chalk, charcoal, and watercolors in which to work. These materials are chosen not only for their ease of use, but because they are safe, nontoxic, clean, and conform to ASTM Standard D-4236 Practice for Labeling Art Materials for Chronic Health Hazards. They also carry No-Odor labeling.
Prior to engaging with patients, artist-educators receive training in infection control, including OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen training and instruction in disinfecting equipment, art supplies, and work surfaces. They are also briefed on HIPAA compliance. Attendance at the Arts in Healthcare Summer Intensive Training at the University of Florida (Gainesville) and a site visit to the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville Arts at the Bedside program completes their orientation. Though they are not officially part of the care plan team, artist-educators also attend hematology inpatient rounds.
Each of the 20 patients chosen to participate in the pilot study will be assessed both before and after working with the educator-artist by means of questionnaires, as well as by Visual Analogue Scales to see how a single art intervention affects anxiety, discomfort, and stress. Ultimately, the purpose of this benefactor-funded pilot program is to provide quantifiable evidence for the efficacy of bedside art making.
According to Curry, the Center for Humanities in Medicine would like to grow the program significantly, eventually offering patients a menu of choices of creative arts in which to participate. This menu would also include music, dance, and creative writing. “It’s a big goal for the future,” says Curry.
For patients participating in Mayo’s pilot study, talent or artistic ability is not an issue. According to Curry, the program is process oriented rather than project oriented. Unlike the HospiTales project, the pilot study focuses on the relationship among the patient, the artist, and the media rather than on creating a finished piece. The Mayo Clinic’s Center for Humanities in Medicine has no specific plans either to exhibit or publish any of the artistic productions created by study participants.