Future health care workers learning through art

Waco Tribune-Herald (TX) - Friday, March 4, 2011

Author: Wendy Gragg Tribune-Herald staff writer


Through a popular new undergraduate class, Baylor University is using art to influence future health care professionals to be more empathetic, observant and well-rounded.

During a recent visual arts and healing class, students put pencil to paper or dug their fingers into lumps of clay, tasked with creating a self-portrait.

“Do you realize when you go to a medical practitioner’s office, you get about 11 to 16 minutes to present yourself to them,” Katie Robinson Edwards, assistant professor of art at Baylor, told the class after sharing the self-portraits they had just produced.

Her words suggested empathy and vulnerability, topics the visual arts and healing class will explore, along with much more, during the semester.

Visual arts and healing is a brand-new addition to the roster of courses for the medical humanities major at Baylor.

Linda Bostwick, a family nurse practitioner in health services at Baylor, and Karen Pope, a senior lecturer in art history at Baylor, secured a grant to create the course from the Society for the Arts in Health Care.

Instead of money, the grant afforded them the time and expertise of artist Mindy Nirenberg, a consultant with the society, to help them design the course.

“She was the genius behind this,” Bostwick said.

Through hands-on art projects, Baylor students are introduced to how many health care providers use art for their own therapy and stress release. They’ll also be exploring how art therapy is used for patients and will talk about art from the patient’s perspective, an exercise to promote empathy.

There’s also a service learning component.

Students visited Waco’s Family Health Center and will create a proposal for a piece of art that could enhance the healing atmosphere at the health center.

Sandra Gregor, an art consultant who purchased art for the Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, will talk to the students about providing a healing environment through art.

Students also will complete a larger self-portrait as a final project.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from the class,” said Baylor senior David Windler, who plans to be a pediatrician. Windler said he always has tinkered around with art, but didn’t realize he could benefit from looking at medicine with an artist’s eye.

Building new skills

Pope said studying art can hone the students’ skills of observation, an essential skill for medical professionals.

By having students examine a work of art again and again, noticing different things about it, the students can learn to pay more attention to details and be more methodical and persistent, she said.

Pope said the art faculty at Baylor were enthusiastic about the course from the start. Pope also liked what the course does for awareness and understanding of the arts program.

“It’s a chance for students across the campus to see how powerful the arts are. They’re not just decoration,” she said.

Similar courses are offered at some medical schools, which is why Baylor’s course stands out, being available to pre-med students.

Baylor’s course also has a broader focus than many others, Bostwick said.

“I think we’re realizing that you want a well-rounded person providing care,” Bostwick said.

Not all of the students in the Medical Humanities major or the Visual Arts and Healing class will be physicians. Some may go into areas such as hospital administration, but all of them can benefit from art and the humanities, Bostwick said.

“I think it provides multiple skills for multiple people going into the health care field,” she said.

The visual arts and healing class is full and there is already a waiting list for it. “I think people were intrigued by it.”



Section: news
Record Number: 03042011-wac-ArtandHealing
(c) 2011 Robinson Media Co. LLC - Waco Tribune-Herald

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Future health care workers learning through art

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