In January 2019 I started a certificate program out of University of Florida for arts in healthcare. At that time, I had experience working with physically and intellectually challenged children and adults, but I had no knowledge about working with individuals in healthcare settings. The program was a fantastic learning experience for me, not only academically but personally as well. In May, as part of a practicum class, I chose to work in a senior living residence and shortly there after was invited to also work with seniors in a second facility. Working with seniors and memory care residents proved to be a fantastic teaching ground, building on evidence I was pouring over at UF. Early in October I completed the program and graduated in December 2020.
Currently Arts in Healthcare is not a widely recognized field here in Richmond, but that is changing. VCU Health has a very small arts in healthcare department and in areas around the state, arts in healthcare is growing beyond the hallway art to directly benefit patients, caregivers and staff. Credentialing the profession and narrowing the language surrounding professional titles would go far in distinguishing professionals from volunteer crafters or those in a caregiving role who already have a heavy workload and are also expected to provide "art therapy". As an aside, art therapy is a licensed therapeutic practice while arts in healthcare specialists are not licensed clinical therapists. See the need for education, changing the language and credentialling?
Have you ever used one of the adult coloring books or listened to music when you've found yourself stressed or unable to sleep? Did you feel somewhat more relaxed? Did it shift your focus from a worry or did you loose track of time while focusing on the task before you? You experienced the beneficial effects that the arts have.
The benefits of participatory arts engagements for those facing health challenges is substantial, measurable and well documented through many quantitative and qualitative studies. Emerging data continues to support the benefit for arts in healthcare specialists who provide informed, engaging, quality, safe and personalized arts for patients, families and professional caregivers. The next time you visit the dentist, sit in waiting room or spend time in a hospital, I challenge you to ask for a visit from an arts in healthcare specialist. If you are fortunate enough to get that visit, pay attention to your stress level before and after the arts interaction. The research shows, relaxation responses increase along with self esteem, laughter and social connectedness while heart rates and blood pressure can decrease, along with anxiety, isolation and depression.