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New York City Health + Hospitals gets $1.5 million grant to expand use of arts in clinical care, staff wellness

Grant will create, expand patient care programs and staff initiatives to reduce stress, support emotional health, address burnout.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

NYC Health + Hospitals leadership will be expanding its use of the arts in clinical and staff care thanks to a $1.5 million grant.

The grant, from philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch via the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City,  will launch the system's own Arts in Medicine program, which will implement new initiatives benefiting staff and patients at hospitals, community health centers, and long-term care facilities, as well as expand initiatives already working at a single site, the system said.

It was provided by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund's Arts in Health initiative, which supports organizations using the arts to address health issues, especially access to care and disparities in health outcomes.

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NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health system in the country, serving roughly 1.1 million New Yorkers annually. The three-year grant will significantly expand the public health system's arts programs. In addition to serving patients, the grant will also allow the system to create staff initiatives to reduce stress, support emotional health, and help address "compassion fatigue," also known as physician burnout.

Through the Arts in Medicine program, several new programs will be introduced. First, HHArt of Medicine involves intense art observation for clinicians that is designed to enhance focus, improve communication, and encourage active listening, all of which positively impacts its ability to serve patients. SoulCollage incorporates workshops for staff with collage composition, which facilitates staff sharing their experiences and emotions. Finally, the Communal Murals program involves collaboration between hospital artists in residence and staff and community members to create artwork both inside and outside facilities.

Patient-oriented programs that are in use at certain NYC H+H sites that also will be expanded.  Music & Memory engages Alzheimer's, dementia and cognitive loss patients by creating personalized playlists with familiar songs to boost memory retrieval and cognitive function. The Lullaby Project partners pregnant women and new mothers with professional musicians to compose lullabies for their babies. Such activities can cut down on maternal anxiety and depression as well as facilitate child development, and parent/child bonding.

"Studies conducted in 2007 by Repar and Patton demonstrated that arts programs can lower rates of tension, anger, depression, and fatigue--symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue. We value our staff, and Arts in Medicine will help bring back the joy in work and improve outcomes for staff and ultimately the patients," said Linh Dang, senior director of the Arts in Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals.


NYC H+H cited research showing that physicians reported renewed energy and focus resulting from artistic engagement, including research on outcomes involving medical students who engaged in art observation training reported in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology which found significant improvement in observational skills as a result of engaging with the arts.

The system already touts a collection of more than 3,000 pieces of artwork, starting with commissioned pieces through the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s to such artists as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Keith Haring.

The Arts in Medicine program will work in tandem with other programs designed to support staff, like the Helping Healers Heal initiative, which was launched in April 2018. The peer-led wellness program offers "emotional first aid" to providers dealing with stress or anxiety and may be at high risk of depression, the system said.

A recent study from researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association showed that while there has been some improvement recently, levels of burnout in healthcare remain troubling, with roughly 44 percent of physicians reporting at least one symptom of burnout, and only about 43 percent reporting satisfaction with their work-life integration.


"I am grateful for the additional resources and greater attention we are now able to give our caretakers and their patients. New York City's health care providers are on the frontlines every day and we must support them in every way we can," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "Art is an important tool that can reduce stress and promote healing, and should be available to everyone. The Mayor's Fund is grateful to Laurie Tisch and the Illumination Fund for their commitment to using art to support mental health."

"Engaging in the arts makes for happier patients and less stressed staff, and we want our care community to benefit from a substantive and accessible Arts in Medicine program," said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. "..."Employees throughout the system have taken the initiative to create extraordinary programs," but they have happened in isolation," said Dr. Katz.  "Expanding programs to new sites will leverage the engagement and enthusiasm and will enable staff to collaborate across our system and learn from each other."

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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