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Parkview, Fort Wayne Dance Collective collaborate on Healing Arts program to aid patients' recovery

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For more about the Healing Arts program or to make a donation, visit www.Parkview.com/HealingArts.

Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 12:01 am

Life imitates art at Parkview Regional Medical Center, thanks to a two-year pilot project between the hospital and local arts nonprofit the Fort Wayne Dance Collective.

The Healing Arts collaboration, which began Monday, is a multi-arts aid for healing designed to serve patients, visitors and their caregivers for therapeutic, educational, and expressive purposes. Visual art, music, movement and literature are among the current components.

Five locally sourced and trained professional artists provide in-room services to patients in the pediatrics and oncology units. The sessions, which are expected to last about 20 minutes, are guided by the patient, to create as much of a personal experience as possible.

“The artists don't go into it thinking 'I'm going to do this project with them',” Alison Gerardot, Dance Collective outreach director, said. Instead, the activity will vary according to the patient's mood, interests, energy level, etc., at the time.

Speaking of energy level, the co-worker classes scheduled throughout the day are designed to get people moving and provide some variety in their daily routine.

The Healing Arts program is the product of much groundwork. Gerardot first approached Parkview with the concept nearly two years ago. The impetus for the initial discussion was a 2009 report from the Society for the Arts and Healthcare, which laid out the many benefits of marrying the arts with health care.

“(After research), it was obvious that we were missing an opportunity to care for the whole person,” said Parkview Health's director of community engagement, Heather Schoegler.

Parkview was open to working with outside groups to better meet the nonphysical needs of patients and staff. A partnership seemed like the natural progression for many reasons.

First, the Parkview Foundation had specifically allocated money for “Healing Arts” after the completion of the regional medical center. Fine art, including a central mural in the lobby, was displayed throughout the hospital and sponsored by community members. The funds were earmarked for the cause of Healing Arts, although it was unclear what that would look like at the time.

“Healing Arts was a guiding principle of building Parkview Regional Medical Center,” Schoegler said, “and we've had elements of it in patient care, but haven't had a formal strategy to support it until now."

Knowing about Parkview's commitment to the arts, Gerardot and her colleagues were eager to approach the hospital system with the concept of a nonprofit-corporate relationship. The mission of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective is to inspire and empower people of all ages and abilities through movement and rhythm.

It was her organization's broad mission that Gerardot saw as a logical benefit. “We do a lot of types of healing movement,” she said. “It's not just dance.” The Dance Collective also has relationships with other local arts organizations, which could be an asset later if the program expands to other media.

Speaking of relationships, in July representatives from Parkview and the Dance Collective visited the University of Florida's Shands Hospital as part of a site visit. The facility is nationally renowned for its innovative Healing Arts program. The hospital's approach to Healing Arts served as a prototype for Parkview's program, and many of the elements are already in place.

For example, all artists are professionals in their respective fields. Currently, five artists work are contracted part-time, to “help them grow in their work outside” the hospital according to Gerardot. The ultimate goal is to employ 25-30 artists part-time, which will have significant economic impact on the region.

Parkview hopes to bring the program to its other units and regional hospitals with additional funding.

Gerardot sees the artist relationship aspect as an extension of the Dance Collective's work, as they have contracted with local artists for 35 years.

Another element Parkview has adopted from Shands' model is the non-clinical approach. In contrast to art therapy, which has specific patient goals and outcomes, healing arts is about service, not a regimented scope of care. Success will be measured by patient satisfaction, Schoegler noted.

“When looking at the whole person, we do an excellent job of caring for the whole body, but we want to enhance the way we care for their spirit as well,” she said. “By caring for the spirit, it can facilitate bodily healing.”

And there is research − mostly qualitative − to support these claims. For example, in 2002, KCI Research and Evaluation conducted a quantitative/qualitative study of the Hospital Artist-in-Residence Program of The Creative Center in New York City.

Data from both patients and staff at five hospitals showed that patient feelings of boredom, anxiety, loneliness, and sadness were relieved. Moreover, patients were more willing to talk about treatment options and/or responded better to treatment after the artist's visit, making the caregiver's job easier.

Since the artist's visit is the central component of the program, the selection process was rigorous by design. All artists are required to undergo the same training as clinical professionals, as well as a special Healing Arts training session.

“We believe we've picked artists skilled with empathy and responsiveness,” she said. Echoing Schoegler's comments, Gerardot added, “It's really about their communication and how they relate to people.”