Art can permeate the very deepest part of us, where no words exist. — Eileen Miller, author
In 2007, Sharp Memorial Hospital launched a small art program for patients with the hope of providing comfort and relieving stress. Now, a decade later, Arts for Healing has become a major initiative at Sharp HealthCare that benefits thousands of patients and their loved ones every year.
The program began with proceeds from auctioned paintings, donated by Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. Heidi Johnston, chaplain and spiritual care coordinator, started bringing a basket full of art supplies to patient rooms at Sharp Memorial to engage patients in arts and crafts activities.
Caregivers saw the positive impact she had on patients and began requesting Johnston’s services more often. As the demand for “arts at the bedside” grew, Johnston reached out to the community for volunteers to assist.
“To help the program grow, we would do mini art sessions with nurses to educate and encourage them to use art with their patients,” says Johnston. “This created excitement for the program, and then, through word of mouth, the program started to spread throughout the hospital.”
Today, four dozen volunteers dedicate more than 150 hours a month to support patients. In addition to Sharp Memorial, Arts for Healing — now under the direction of Liz Mackenzie — serves patients at several Sharp hospitals and is completely funded by donations. Over the years, more than 100,000 patients and loved ones have experienced the healing power of arts and music.
The Arts for Healing program is unique; it brings a certified music therapist or expressive art therapist into the hospital room. Patients participate in a variety of creative activities, which may include beading, card making, creative writing, painting, scrapbooking, model building and seasonal crafts.
At Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, women with high-risk pregnancies who stay for an extended amount of time on the Perinatal Special Care Unit share in art and music activities to promote socialization and reduce anxiety.
The most recent addition to the Arts for Healing program is music therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sharp Mary Birch. According to Amy Andrews, Arts for Healing’s board-certified music therapist, research has shown that music therapy for premature babies in the NICU can help promote development and provide family support.
“Our board-certified music therapist works with NICU caregivers to create a plan of care that infuses music therapy with medical treatment,” says Mackenzie.
At Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, Sharp’s behavioral health facility, patients use arts and crafts for motivation and to foster emotional and spiritual well-being.
The Arts for Healing program inspires and motivates patients, and enhances Sharp’s ability to provide compassionate care, Mackenzie says. The art activities and music therapy help encourage a positive healing environment and give patients an outlet to express themselves when they may struggle to find the words to describe what they feel.
“The program uses creativity and connecting with people to lift the spirits of our patients; it helps them with the healing process from the inside out,” says Mackenzie.
Learn more about the Arts for Healing program at Sharp HealthCare.