Artistic Medicine: Bringing lessons learned from the art world into medicine How does art interpretation relate to healthcare?

Daniel Hoffman, 15 March 2016

When medical students have been exposed to an art interpretation class during medical school they have performed better in diagnosing patients (Naghshineh et al., 2008). It is no wonder that students at various medical schools around the country are embracing this, including Yale. It has been found to improve observation and empathy on the part of the student. In the long term this can help future physicians build a more positive repertoire with patients, sensitivity and perspective, and become more thorough in their diagnosis.
The wonder of art is that it takes us beyond what we know, gives a low-risk experience of uncertainty, and a safe experience of an unknown practice. When groups interpret an art medium, everyone has varying thoughts and ideas of what the piece is trying to convey. It is art, so no matter how different the views are they are not wrong rather they represent a different perception. Each person sees the piece differently and reads the piece based on prior experiences, biases, and how the piece makes them feel.

Art interpretation improves the performance of medical students because the act of interpreting allowsthe student to explore the entire medium and attempt to understand the why:
• Why did the artist pick these colors?
• Why is this piece making me feel this way?
This aesthetic attention allows the student to better understand what s/he “brings to the table” when s/he “arrives”. Aesthetic attention helps bring awareness to your own feelings in response to an atypical situation (Shapiro, Rucker, & Beck, 2006). This means that a situation could arise where you are seeing patient after patient and all of a sudden a non-normative patient comes in. This could throw off your workflow, but understanding how you respond to these situations, emotionally, you will be able to better address the patient’s need in a professional manner.
Medical professionals: Next time you are working in a healthcare setting, imagine patient A sitting in front of you. Yes, you most likely have an idea of what is going on based on past notes, appearance, and thoughts from medical staff, but look beyond the title of the patient and think of the why. Essentially imagine the patient as more than just a patient but rather as a person with a backstory, family, struggles, and individual needs to improve clinical decision making (Miller, Grohe, Khoshbin, & Katz, 2013).
You are able to gain significant skill in other areas that are helpful. Pattern recognition, questioning assumptions, building a story, among other traits that could be helpful for medical disposition (Shapiro et al., 2006).

Miller, A., Grohe, M., Khoshbin, S., & Katz, J. T. (2013). From the Galleries to the Clinic: Applying Art Museum Lessons to Patient Care. Journal of Medical Humanities, 34(4), 433–438. doi:10.1007/s10912-013-9250-8
Naghshineh, S., Hafler, J. P., Miller, A. R., Blanco, M. A., Lipsitz, S. R., Dubroff, R. P., … Katz, J. T. (2008). Formal art observation training improves medical students’ visual diagnostic skills. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(7), 991–997. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0667-0
Shapiro, J., Rucker, L., & Beck, J. (2006). Training the clinical eye and mind: Using the arts to develop medical students’ observational and pattern recognition skills. Medical Education, 40(3), 263–268. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02389.x

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