The Art of Medicine: Diverse Artwork Improves Patient Experience

Long gone are the days of sterile hospital walls and waiting rooms. Artwork creates a soothing and healing environment, which studies show can promote patient relaxation by reducing stress, anxiety and pain levels.

A painting of white wildflowers in a field against a bright blue sky. Copyright 2022 Mark C. Greenberg for University Health.  Artist: Roger Price

According to one study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “there are clear indications that artistic engagement has significantly positive effects on health.” 

“Some hospitals are hiring experienced curators who draw from a variety of art mediums to create the best possible hospital experience and journey for patients, as well as staff,” said Allison Hays Lane, curator and archivist at University Health.

Benefits of Having Art in a Healing Environment 

Being in a well-designed environment with exposure to color, light and nature has a number of benefits, including:

  • Provides a positive distraction from worry and anxiety by promoting a sense of calm and positivity
  • Promotes faster healing, less medication and shorter hospital stays by improving the patient experience
  • Creates a welcoming environment for patients, families and staff by making them feel valued

Healing Art at University Health

University Health uses art to inspire healing, compassion, hope and trust. As part of the SaludArte: Art of Healing program’s larger vision, our work reflects the community, improves the experience of our patients and visitors and communicates our mission through art and design enhancements. NEST by Michael Szivos hangs in the lobby of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital on the University Health Medical Center Campus.

Since 2010, our nationally recognized, award-winning SaludArte program has grown to offer more than 60 art-related activities each year for our patients and staff, including:

  • Art workshops
  • Music performances
  • Poetry readings
  • Artist demonstrations
  • Art in the Garden music performances
  • Staff art kit giveaways

In fact, guitarists and cellists entertain patients and visitors in University Hospital's main lobby. Hospitals can be stressful, and these musicians provide a welcome distraction and diversion. 

Additionally, some of the art throughout University Hospital was created and donated by hospital staff and physicians.

Art in the New Women’s & Children’s Hospital

Brook Rosser, San Antonio, Texas Burro, 2022 Mixed-media on wood

In August 2023, we will open our new Women’s and Children’s Hospital. This facility proudly joins our SaludArte program with more than 1,000 artworks, bringing our total to more than 5,500 objects. The brand-new hospital provides the perfect “blank canvas” to bring national and local artists together to improve mood, stress and comfort.

“Local artists also create a sense of identity and connection to our community by showcasing regional themes,” Hays Lane said.

“Throughout our program, we have maintained evidenced-based and trauma-informed care design standards to create a hopeful, compassionate, colorful and uplifting environment for children, mothers and their families,” she added.

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