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How Bedside Art Helps Heal Patients

A study was published this year by Mayo Clinic physicians about the benefits of bringing art to the bedside. One Mayo Clinic physician and a distraction artist spoke with KIMT about how art and self-care brings healing to patients.

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 4:42 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2018 11:31 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Jenna Whiting has a unique job.

She uses art to distract patients from any pain they might feel while getting treatment at Mayo Clinic. Her official job title is "Distraction Artist" for "Art at the Bedside," a program that has been running for 15 years at Mayo.

Her work is one example of a study by Mayo Clinic physicians which emphasizes the importance of bringing art to the patient setting. For the study, an artist came to the bedside of bone marrow patients. She brought pastels, tools and watercolors and she invited the patients to participate. They measured their pain, anxiety level, as well as their positive and negative moods. After they completed a test, they measured those factors again.

Once the test was completed, 95 percent of the patients had a positive experience because it took them out of the excruciating pain they might have been enduring.

Dr. Alexandra Wolanskyj-Spinner, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic spoke to KIMT about how the study helped patients.

"It takes them out of what they are experiencing, the pain, anxiety, that fight or flight area of the brain," Dr. Alexandra Wolanskyj-Spinner said.

Jenna Whiting has been working with art therapy for 7 years and sees the value of bringing creativity to the bedside.

"In the end, they can take all of their emotions and feelings and project it on to a piece of art work," Whiting said.

Dr. Wolanskyj-Spinner is a musician herself and encourages everyone, whether they are in medical care or not, to use creativity to help them deal with the stress of everyday life.

"I can guarantee you that you'll feel better after you do it."

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