UF Shands Arts in Medicine and the Transformative Power of Creativity in Healthcare
By Deborah Holmén, M.Ed., NBCT
A unique initiative has been bridging the gap between arts and healthcare, giving patients a powerful tool to aid their recovery at UF Shands Arts in Medicine program. With many programs designed to uplift and inspire, UF Arts in Medicine (AIM) is transforming the lives of countless individuals.
What exactly is UF Arts in Medicine?
The answer lies in the belief that the arts have an innate capacity to heal, rejuvenate and empower individuals. This program recognizes the undeniable connection between creativity and well-being, harnessing its potential to mentally and physiologically support patients on their road to recovery.
Jernie Millán, Community Arts Coordinator at UF Shands Arts in Medicine program and an artist herself, shares Shands’s unique perspective toward the AIM program. “Shands Arts in Medicine is a worldwide leader in arts and healthcare established over 33 years ago. It was the first of its kind to integrate the arts into the healthcare experience, providing an innovative approach to patient care, staff well-being and community engagement,” she said.
Creative Arts for Healing
At its core, AIM is a unique and innovative initiative that seeks to integrate the arts into the healthcare experience for patients, staff and the broader community. By incorporating various art forms such as music, dance, visual arts and creative writing, the program seeks to enhance the overall well-being of individuals, promote healing and enrich the healthcare environment.
The program offers a variety of opportunities for patients, including art therapy sessions, live musical performances and interactive workshops. These activities provide a means of self-expression and relaxation and help reduce stress, anxiety and pain, ultimately improving the patient’s quality of life.
HeART Wall is a project that aims to bring together the community of Gainesville through art. This art installation mural is created out of mosaic hearts and is set to be a powerful visual symbol of unity and creativity. The project will run from November 2023 to May 2024, and local artist-in-residence Sarah Hinds will host HeART gatherings in various locations such as schools, community centers and parks. The resulting monumental mural will be installed in July 2024 near Depot Park.
Millán also said, “I am working on a program called Social Arts Prescribing. This program is a part of a comprehensive healthcare plan where an artist visits patients in the hospital multiple times. The patients find this program helpful to their healthcare plan. Our goal with Social Arts Prescribing is to provide a resource for all of North Central Florida for people who are leaving the hospital and are looking for a specific doctor to help and support them through their recovery after the hospital.”
Setting the Stage for Humanizing Healthcare
In addition to patient care, the AIM program also focuses on staff well-being and professional development. Through workshops, seminars and collaborative projects, healthcare professionals are encouraged to explore their creative side and learn how the arts can contribute to their personal and professional growth. This fosters a more compassionate, empathetic and resilient workforce capable of providing the best possible care for their patients.
The program seeks to engage the broader community by hosting public events, exhibitions and performances. These activities not only showcase the talents of local artists but also raise awareness about the importance of integrating the arts into healthcare.
In the hospital setting, art therapy acts as a catalyst for connection– allowing patients to communicate and express their emotions when words may fail them. Community programs also play a vital role in extending the reach of UF Arts in Medicine beyond the hospital walls. Through partnerships with local organizations, the program facilitates workshops and events that promote community engagement and healing through the arts.
Millán is incredibly passionate about a particular grant program, One Nation One Project. “One Nation One Project is a community grant initiative to foster unity and collaboration among diverse communities within the United States. The City of Gainesville was one of 18 cities nationwide to receive the grant and is using it to promote gun violence awareness. The project promotes civic engagement, cultural awareness and social cohesion with culminating events at the end of the summer,” she said.
The program encourages people from different backgrounds to come together and work on common goals, strengthening the bonds between individuals and communities.
The impact is palpable for those who have experienced the magic of UF Arts in Medicine. Patients who once felt isolated and fearful find refuge in the artistic embrace, discovering renewed hope and rejuvenation. Families witness the transformative power of creativity as they witness their loved ones embark on a journey of recovery that transcends the confines of traditional Medicine.
As UF Arts in Medicine continues to shine its light on the healing potential of the arts, it paves the way for a future where creativity is an integral aspect of healthcare.