Artist in Chemotherapy Treatment Room

Submitted by Erin McGee Ferrell

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Client: New England Cancer Specialists

Location: Kennebunk, ME, United States

Completion date: 2018

Project Team

Artist

Erin McGee Ferrell

Industry Resource

Steve L. D'Amato

New England Cancer Specialists

Public Art Agent

Julie Richard

Maine Arts Commission

Overview

The current project explored the impact of a live artist in the chemo treatment room. Surveys were completed by staff, patients, and patients’ friends who came to support them. Below are some of the findings from the pre-project survey given to staff members, and the weekly surveys completed by staff, patients, and friends. For six weeks, the artist was engaged and interactive. For two weeks, as a comparison, she wore earphones and quietly worked on her painting without interacting. Below is a summary of feedback from staff and patients across the eight weeks of the project.

Goals

Patient Survey (Interactive Artist Weeks). For six weeks, the artist created art while interacting with the patients. 37 surveys were completed by patients on these weeks. On a scale from 0-10, patients rated the experience very positively, in terms of how likely they would be to recommend having a working artist in the chemo treatment room (M = 8.56, SD = 2.06). 17 responded with extremely likely, a 10 on the scale. When asked how frequently they would like to experience this activity during a clinic, 0 said they would never like to experience this and 1 said just occasionally. 9 said they would like to experience this some visits, whereas 19 responded most visits and 8 responded they would like to experience this every visit.

Process

The increased social interaction was a key benefit to the staff. As one nurse wrote, “watching, and interacting with the artist and giving the patient the attention that they deserve did relieve the nurse of the additional small talk to the patient. Although we do love to get to know our patients unfortunately time management doesn’t always allow for giving the patient the extra attention to make them feel special.” The communication was not only with the artist, but with each other. A greater sense of community seemed to emerge. As one wrote, it “opened up communication between patients, and gained a sense of comradery.” Other comments about the social interaction included “watching patients enjoy themselves, and interacting with one another gave me a sense of happiness,” “brought out discussion,” “lively, exciting, and lots of laughter and smiles.” A medical assistant noted the spontaneous community that emerged as well, “Now it feels like I’m in a Dunkin Donuts watching the patients drink coffee with a bunch of friends.”

Additional Information

Nurses clearly noticed a difference between the more passive art and the days when the artist was interacting with patients: “Patients are much more appreciative and less stressed about their day when they are interacting and participating rather than just observing.”