Using Art to Provide Better Patient Care

April 6, 2017
A new approach at Tulsa Community College blends art into academic learning with students in 14 Health Sciences programs such as Nursing, Respiratory Care, and Occupational Therapy. The program, being developed for TCC called Visual Thinking Strategies, will be used by TCC Health Sciences faculty and incorporated into the teaching curriculum in TCC Health Sciences courses.

This new multi-disciplinary approach to Health Sciences education will incorporate artwork at the Philbrook Museum and engage students through intense focus on the details in artwork to improve communication, with the goal of improving both student skills and patient outcomes.

“This has proven to be beneficial and incorporated in many medical schools and other health professions schools across the country. We are excited about the positive impact on Nursing students as well as other Allied Health students in producing better health care professionals,” said Midge Elliott, Dean, School of Health Sciences at TCC.

Kristy Peterson, a museum educator who originated similar programs at the Pritzker School of Medicine and Rush Medical College in Chicago and the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and Dr. Karen Schell, a faculty member from the University of Kansas Medical Center campus in the Respiratory Therapy program, are developing the program for TCC. TCC Health Sciences faculty will take part in a workshop with Peterson and Schell.

The workshop and curriculum development by Peterson and Schell is funded through the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma Lectureship.

By participating in the lecture and Philbrook workshop, TCC faculty will better understand how to connect clinical teaching and discussion to an analysis of works of art in a museum setting. While studying artwork, faculty and students will explore the topics of perception and memory, emotion and empathy, and personal bias and judgment as a framework. Students will then apply what they discover to clinical cases to improve patient assessment skills, inter-professional communication skills, and the role of empathy as a healthcare professional.

“The exercises of studying art and focusing on the details increases a student’s ability to see more than they did before. This is especially helpful during a physical assessment of a patient,” said Elliott. “In addition, a student improves communication through a deeper understanding about each other and the patient’s perceptions. Plus, studies have shown an increase in empathy on behalf of the student by seeing the issue from the patient’s viewpoint.”

The first lecture and workshop is Thursday and Friday, April 6 & 7 with Peterson and Schell. TCC Health Sciences faculty will participate in a lecture and then divide into two groups for the workshop sessions at the Philbrook Museum. TCC Health Sciences faculty will then partner with TCC Art faculty to develop and implement similar learning activities for health sciences students to improve patient care and patient outcomes.