Hershey Medical Center brings together artists, researchers for collaboration, education

Artists, health care providers, administrators and researchers from across Pennsylvania gathered at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for the Arts in Health Symposium on April 4 and 5. Those who attended danced, listened to music, admired artwork and heard from experts about how to successfully integrate the arts into health care.

Claire de Boer, director of Center Stage Arts in Health in the Department of Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine, and her colleagues led the planning of the symposium. Pennsylvania Council on the Arts sponsored the event.

De Boer is a governing member of the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH). Leadership of the organization plans to use the event as a model for future regional arts in health symposiums across the country.

Organizers identified networking as one of two goals for the event. “A lot of people want to know who is doing what in the field and who they should contact,” de Boer said. The symposium was designed to connect three types of people who form a triad for effective arts in health research: clinicians, artists and researchers.

“For this to be successful, it has to be a collaboration,” de Boer said. “We can’t expect artists to know about research and for researchers to be artists.”

Art reception features "Stigma People"

The second goal of the symposium was to educate those who attended on the careful planning that goes into implementing arts in health care settings. “Not every art form or genre fits in a medical setting,” de Boer said. “People are vulnerable and sensitive in a medical setting, so you must be sensitive to what types of art you implement.”

De Boer and her colleagues have established guidelines for the use of arts in health care settings in alignment with NOAH standards. Attendees learned how arts in health programs were successfully implemented at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and other institutions.

From art therapies to live musical performances, patients and providers recognize the positive effects of the arts in health care settings. De Boer’s favorite part of the day was when she heard testimonials from a panel of program participants whose lives have been touched by arts in health at Hershey Medical Center.

One resident spoke about the creation of a group called Moms in Medicine that helped her address burnout both as a physician and a mother through artistic workshops. A chaplain discussed how learning to deal with negative space in art helped him realize that patients have mental and emotional negative spaces that must be addressed in their care.

Patients value the role arts play in their health care, de Boer noted. “They say that art brings them joy when they come for their appointments. It helps to humanize the health care setting.”

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