Music and Art As Medicine

When you walk down a hall at Saint Francis, what you see and hear tips you off that you are probably in a hospital. Two doctors consult one another outside a patient room, a nurse hurries along with a needed medication, the phone rings at the nursing station. But in many ways, what is around you doesn't feel like a hospital at all: paintings and tapestries hang on walls, a sculpture presides over a lobby and live music floats out from a patient care unit.

What you are noticing are some of the ways Saint Francis helps create a healing and nurturing environment for patients by infusing the arts into the hospital.

"The arts programs we support are our way of acknowledging that art has an impact on healing," says Edward Johnson, D.D.S., senior vice president for public relations and community affairs. "Art is so closely linked with spirituality. Art can be the glue that brings the mind, body and spirit together - and encourages healing. As a Catholic hospital, Saint Francis has a rich spiritual heritage. The arts programs are a way to continue to foster that spirituality."

Some of the programs that Saint Francis features are the the hospital docent program and "Music is Medicine."

A Guiding Light 

Local groups can learn about Saint Francis' art collection through the new hospital docent program. A docent is someone who conducts groups through a museum or art gallery. At Saint Francis, two volunteers serve as docents, guiding visitors through selected portions of the hospital's collection of more than 2,000 works. The tours are currently available to senior centers, clubs and other community groups.

"The hospital has such a wonderful and extensive art collection," says Tobye Karl, director of volunteer services, who oversees the program. "We developed this program to make the collection available to the community."

"The collection is very diverse and, in that way, represents the population that the hospital serves," she explains. "The program is a nice way for the hospital to reach out to the community and for local people to get to enjoy some of our resources."

Instrumental to wellness is the "Music is Medicine" program. Volunteers play music for patients, mostly on the oncology unit. The music program spans virtually all types of music and musical instruments - from full bands playing celebratory music to a single violinist playing quiet, meditative music - and is performed by musicians of all ages.

"The volunteers and staff who keep the arts programs going around the hospital contribute immeasurably to the supportive, friendly and caring environment at Saint Francis," says Dr. Johnson. "Art in the hospital - in any form - encourages healing on a very personal level."