Published by
Stanford Medicine


Events, Medicine and Literature, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

The benefits of the arts to both patient and practitioner

The benefits of the arts to both patient and practitioner

A splash of acrylic paint on canvas. An overture from Mozart. A stanza of Rilke’s poetry.

Each of these artistic endeavors helps patients heal in a strange environment: the hospital. Studies have shown that patients who participate in the creative arts, whether painting, writing, or listening to music, experience a reduction in adverse physiological and psychological outcomes. But the creative arts can also help health care practitioners to better understand and appreciate the experiences of patients, according to Audrey Shafer, MD, director of the Program on Arts, Humanities, and Medicine and the keynote speaker at an Arts Program event at Stanford Hospital & Clinics yesterday.

During her talk she described how each of us, to varying degrees, has had direct experience as patients, as caregivers or as witnesses to the suffering of close family members or friends. And Shafer, a practicing anesthesiologist, explained how arts in the medical setting can give health care practitioners unique insight:

A doctor or nurse may know about the pathophysiology of broncho-constriction in asthma and how to administer beta-adrenergic agonists – but what about the experience of not being able to breathe, or how instability in the home life may be precluding regular medication routines? Arts in health care can really give a glimpse into that experience.

In reading literature we come to appreciate the nuances of illness, the many presentations, the ambiguities and incompleteness of treating chronic illness, the implications of the particulars.

You need the science, absolutely, but you also gain from the art.

Continue Reading »

Stanford Medicine Resources: