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Rotary Happenings: Arts in Healthcare program alleviates stress for patients and family members

By Staff | Apr 5, 2017

Hospitals are pretty much places where most of us want to spend as little time as possible. Hospitals serve a fixed purpose, but time spent there is usually stressful. Our guest speaker this past week at Rotary was Doug McGregor, coordinator of the Arts in Healthcare for the Lee Health System, this program tries to alleviate stress for both patients and family members by employing activities using art and music as a diversion allowing a respite for the mind and soul during times of health crises.

Anyone who has walked into the lobby of Health Park Hospital is immediately impressed by the beautifully designed space. A welcoming multi-storied open atrium lobby with patient and volunteer art work displayed throughout, frequently distracting patients and visitors from their anxiety. Often, one of the 75 music volunteers in the Arts in Healthcare program are found seated at the lobby piano playing music for visitors as they take a break from their visits to family members, or waiting for patients during doctor visits, rehab, testing appointments, or during patient resting periods. One noted music volunteer is piano prodigy, Noah Waddell, who usually plays at 4 p.m., every Thursday afternoon. “Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” Jean Paul Friedrich Richter.

Music is also brought right into patient rooms. Downloads are placed on portable disc players tailored to requests, or designed as a form of stimulating or soothing remedies. Alzheimer patient are often stimulated by music of their generation bringing their mind alive, or videos of outdoor scenes and national parks that steer memories of days gone by.

There are number of art galleries throughout the hospital that allow a comforting and beautiful place to rest the mind. Art is even presented on the ceilings in certain areas of the hospital, areas where patients find themselves on their back looking up. Patient rooms have a variety of ceiling tile designs and just above the rehab area and radiation rooms are 385 painted ceiling tiles depicting the sky and beautiful billowing white clouds painted by volunteers.

McGregor told us a story about a series of ceiling tiles placed above one of the hospital nurse’s stations, “An 18-year-old patient who unfortunately had to stay at the hospital for a month wanted to thank his nurses for the great care he received during his stay. He decided to paint cookie-monster style ceiling tiles dedicated to the nursing staff and included all of their names on the tiles to say thank you. Now when the nurses and staff have a hard day, they can look up and know all of their wonderful care is appreciated.”

Volunteers go in and help patients setup for painting and crafts, some teach first-timers how to get started with projects. During this time thoughts are shared and friendships are formed. Patients benefit from the human interaction.

Many of you may recognize the name Doug McGregor. He is the News-Press Sunday edition editorial cartoonist and he himself will sit down with some younger patients and draw with them their favorite super heroes. They talk about their heroes’ super powers and talk about the super powers they might need to get better. POW! BAM! KABOOM! If they can’t draw, Doug will draw the pictures and the patients will express their ideas.

McGregor uses art and music in a variety of ways in this innovative and creative healthcare program. Helping him implement the activities used to relieve stress, particularly long-term stays, are approximately 1,000 program volunteers.

An Art Cart on wheels brings art and craft supplies right into patients’ rooms – paper, canvases, colored pencils, crayons, glue, and all kinds of painting and crafting supplies. The cart services both adults and children and is in constant circulation throughout the hospital. Many patients enjoy painting and find while painting, or crafting, a place where their healthcare worries are set aside for a period-of-time.

Art in Healthcare at Lee Memorial, what is the objective? To help patients and their families get through a rough time in life. McGregor explained to us this is not a therapy program, but a human program designed to help relieve stress and provide positive energy toward healing.

Supplies for the Art Cart are purchased only by financial donations and if you believe in this type of program donations will be greatly appreciated.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets Friday mornings at 7 a.m., at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club. Guests are always welcomed.