Heartland initiative brings art to patients

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Patients of Heartland Health's Obstetrics & Gynecology shouldn't be surprised if they hear the faint strains of Civil War music drifting through the corridors.

Dr. Robert Corder plans to share his hobby, playing the Civil War tunes on the violin, with his patients and his caregiver staff. Soon his repertoire will include Christmas carols.

Though it may not bring about any physical changes, Dr. Corder appreciates music's role in the medical process.

"Music and the arts help lift the spirits, and that's a very important part of healing. All kinds of arts do that," the sometime violinist says.

Heartland hopes to bring more music and fine arts to patients as part of its efforts to expand the arts into patient care. How art can work alongside medicine is of growing interest to the medical community. Studies collected by the National Endowment for the Arts found music and art have helped lower patient anxiety levels. Surveys conducted by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare also showed more workplace satisfaction among nursing staff in hospitals that incorporated art programs.

Last year, Heartland Health's volunteer services, the Center for Healing Generosity, launched the Healing HeARTS program.

Stacey Park, a volunteer with a background in theater, came up with the initiative, which brings fine arts such as music, photography and painting to patients' bedsides.

"I know how much theater helped my life in so many ways," says Ms. Parks, who also has a degree in social work. "I wanted to bring the arts to my community."

The first phase of the program, the Art Cart, launched in December of 2010. Volunteers bring the cart, which contains photographs, paintings and magazines, with them during their visits. Patients can select items from the cart to use during their stay, to either decorate their walls or keep by their beds.

In some cases, the art becomes a talking point. A gentleman Ms. Park worked with recognized a classic car on one of the Art Cart's watercolor sets, and it spurred a conversation about his antique car. Another woman spotted a bird in one of Mr. Hedden's photographs and started talking about the hummingbirds she fed.

The Art Cart helps, too, when volunteers are in short supply, Ms. Park says, because it gives patients and their families something to do while they wait to see a caregiver. Kids can make use of "Smile Bags" that contain coloring books and utensils.

Ms. Park, who helped host an open house for the program at Heartland Nov. 30, hopes to expand the Healing HeARTS program next year to recruit musician volunteers to bring music to patients' rooms. If she has it her way, violin performances like Dr. Corder's will occur more. She's also working with area arts organizations like the Allied Arts Council to bring a concert series to Heartland Health.

"I'm really excited about this. It's my dream," Ms. Park says.


Information from: St. Joseph News-Press, http://www.stjoenews-press.com

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