Email Comments by Readers

“I was checking out blogs on the Arts and Healing Network site and found yours. Those of us who face the certainty of uncertain health really appreciate the gifts you share.” ~Carmen A.

“…been stressing myself out on how I was going to answer the question for an interview, “How have I used creativity in the workplace?” At first I had to look up exactly what that meant.  Most of the articles talked about “thinking out of the box and improving systems.”  I found articles stating creative thinking is now being taught in nursing schools.  Then I found that most creative thinking is done on a managerial level because staff nurses are bombarded with so many things in a given shift that there isn’t time for “creative thinking”.  Then I came across your blog and it went straight to the heart and soul of who I am.” ~Betsy

“Making art has been of great help to me in my cancer/life journey. It is always interesting to see new members come to the art class for the first time and proclaim they have no art talent. Nonverbal expression is just as valuable, and some times more so to those of us who don’t have the words to express our feelings in processing life.” ~Janet


Get ready to be awed…

Here’s a series of 4 videos by The New York Times about Antarctica. Watch the 4th video, ‘Under A Cracked Sky,’ and swim with seals, explore ice caves and float above the seabed crawling with life.

Do you know how to be your own best patient advocate?

In ‘To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System’ report, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) estimates 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors. The likelihood of experiencing a medical error is about six percent for each day in the hospital (IOM, 2000)

You are your own best advocate. If you can’t advocate for yourself, get your family members and friends to advocate for you by following these tips. These safety tips are summarized by Donna Crisp, author of Anatomy of Medical Errors: The Patient in Room 2You will access the healthcare system at some point in your life, and need to be actively engaged in your care. It is your life after all.

Become Your Own Medical Consumer Advocate:

  • Pay attention, even if you must detach from your emotions as a patient.
  • Ask questions and take notes.
  • Remain skeptical and alert.


    Ask questions!

  • Identify your assumptions and validate them.
  • Never assume you are being told what you most need to know, much less all you need to understand.
  • Make sure you or someone with you knows what medication you are prescribed and given, and for what purpose. Remember that medication errors are common in hospitals. Realize that you may refuse medication for any reason.
  • Whenever possible, have someone act as your advocate and witness.
  • Learn as much as possible about your health issues so you can formulate relevant questions and concerns to share with your physician or other caregivers.
  • Realize and remember that sickness and treatment are about much more than a physical problem, disease, or trauma: They are also about suffering, fear, anxiety, loneliness, support, and hope.

After You Receive Bad Health News:

  • When you hear bad news, do not necessarily assume it is true. It might be, but become your personal devil’s advocate. Do not allow fear to be your driving force. It is not unusual for a second opinion to yield a different diagnosis. A second opinion may be essential to confirm a correct diagnosis and, as well, may give you more treatment options for consideration. Always get a second opinion.
  • Ask other people—a neighbor, colleague, friend, family member, or someone from your religious community or groups of interests—if they know anything about your diagnosis. When I asked people about uterine cancer, several people told me there was a high success rate with surgery, assuming the cancer had not spread. This immediately gave me hope.
  • Find out which doctor has the reputation for being the best person to help you, but remain skeptical—even bad doctors have fans. If you personally know people who work in healthcare, such as a nurse or physician, ask them who they would go to—and why—if they received your diagnosis.
  • If you have more than one hospital to choose from, learn how various hospitals deal with your problem. For example, breast cancer treatments vary widely depending on where you live and which hospital you choose.
  • The Internet provides comprehensive information about most knowledge-empowers-youanything; make sure you use only reliable sources—websites such as MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, WebMD, Sharecare, or the Mayo Clinic. Unscientific blogs may confuse or alarm you as it’s difficult to verify their stories or claims.
  • Finally, remember that knowledge is power. Learning about your health crisis may not only guide your choices, it may also empower you with a sense of control during a time when life feels scary.

Before You Go for Healthcare:

  • If possible, have your affairs in order, especially your legal will and your advance directives—living will and healthcare power of attorney. Prepare for the worst scenario and hope for the best outcome. Take copies of your advance directives with you when you go for treatment. Also, tell your friends and family what they might need to know in case you do not come home on schedule, or worse.
  • Make arrangements for your home, pets, mail, and other matters you will not be able to attend to while out of commission.
  • Items you may need include personal telephone, watch or clock, pen and paper, contact information for people you might need to talk with, and reading material—preferably something that inspires you.
  • Make sure you tell your loved ones ahead of time how you feel about visitors—which ones and how often. Since I planned to be home about 24 hours after entering the hospital, I expected to have no visitors, only the friend who was with me. Later, my family knew I would not want visitors while I was in a coma.

While You Are in the Hospital:

  • Have someone with you as much as possible—someone who is not afraid to ask tough questions or speak up if something does not seem right, someone who can help make decisions (or call the right people) if something goes wrong. Choose a person who is brave enough to risk being seen as inappropriate or meddling. It is better to appear foolish than to risk saying nothing, in case something is not right. There is nothing more important than your physical and emotional well-being when you are under the control of a medical system.
  • If your doctor or nurse (or someone else) is not giving you the right care or is not treating you with respect, ask to speak with someone in authority, such as the nursing unit manager, the nursing supervisor, the doctor’s supervisor, or the administrator in charge. If you do not know how to contact any of these people, pick up the telephone and dial the operator for assistance. I once knew a woman whose arms had been severely injured, leaving her unable to wipe herself in the bathroom. When I learned that a nurse was not helping her with that don't-be-afraid-to-ask-questionschore, I spoke to the unit manager to insist the nurses perform correctly.
  • If you cannot get the nutrition you need, ask someone to bring you food you can eat.
  • In general, do not be afraid to ask for anything that might help you, even if you think your request cannot be met. You never know. And, if you cannot speak for yourself, make sure you have a personal advocate who can look after your needs. Staffing shortages are common in hospitals.

Click here to print a pdf version. Share with others broadly.

Is Healthcare Analytics an Art?

First of all, what is analytics? Simply put, it is transforming data into information and knowledge, and making those insights actionable.  Healthcare analytics is applying statistical tools and techniques to healthcare data to study past situations, such as clinical outcomes or operational performance, in order to improve the quality and efficiency of clinical and business processes and performance.

clinical-data-analyticsWith the transition from paper to electronic medical records, and ever growing internal and external regulatory pressures to the healthcare system, there is increasing need for analytics for organizations to improve efficiency, provide high quality care while cutting costs.

A LinkedIn subscriber and Chief Data Scientist provides a good explanation of data analytics as well as simple guidelines in working with data. He goes on to say, “For all its science components, Data Science is primarily an art.”

Many feel creativity is the opposite of analytics, that creativity is exploratory, inspiration or intuition based, free thinking and even visionary. While analytics, on the other hand, is rote, tedious, rigorous and methodical. This is hardly the case! Yes, there is a certain methodical aspect to investigating a business or clinical problem and collecting the necessary data…this is critical. However, it is during the analyze phase where a great deal of creativity is required. It is during analysis that you begin to connect the dots, fill the gaps, gain insights, question other possible connections by being open to what the data can tell you.

Thomas Davenport and Jinho Kim in Keeping Up With The Quants, believe creativity and analytics are in fact closely related, and that the most successful uses of analytics are highly creative.

As an artist (painter) and former critical care nurse working in clinical analytics and performance and quality improvement, here’s a simple equation explaining creativity in analytics-> creativity=curiosity. Curiosity, in my opinion, is at the root of analytics. You have to have a great deal of curiosity to work in analytics in order to go beyond basic assumptions, to tease out patterns, to connect the dots, and discover possible solutions. It is the discovery of insights that is highly creative and the most fun.

So, what is the answer to the question “Is Healthcare Analytics an Art?” I’ll answer it with a quote:


Poetry, Painting to Earn an M.D.

Is incorporating the arts  such as poetry, painting and writing into medical school curriculum beneficial to medical students?  According to a Wall Streetwriting-creativityinhealthcare Journal article, it is.  In an effort to teach and learn compassionate care along with the traditional sciences, a number of medical schools are encouraging electives in the humanities.  In fact, some schools are requiring medical students to take writing, painting and other creative courses to help foster empathy and attentive listening and sensitivity while providing care to patients.

So, what exactly are the humanities?  These are academic disciplines studying the human condition.  It requires analysis, critical thinking and speculation.  Some examples of the humanities are literature, visual arts, music, performing arts, philosophy, religion, history, languages, anthropology, etc.

Academic disciples studying the “human condition”? What about nursing and medicine? These are 2 disciplines  dedicated to studying and caring for human conditions, and aren’t even included under Humanities!

To read the Wall Street Journal article – click here.

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Jelaluddin Rumi…


Do you know what your particular work is?



Candace Pert, Explorer of the Brain

Candace Pert, my favorite scientist, died recently from a heart attack…read the New York Times article.

Candace Pert, PhD.

Her book, Molecules of Emotion, had such an impact on me in terms of my work as a painter, and understanding the scientific basis of emotions on health and well-being. In fact, this blog, Creativity in Healthcare, was created based on the interconnectedness  of emotions on health and disease states. You may be interested in seeing a few paintings titled Molecules of Emotion“,  which focuses on the scientific work of Candace Pert.  This series remains a work in perpetual progress.

A bit of background on Candace Pert, PhD: 

As a  graduate student at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Candace discovered the receptor for opiates like endorphins (natural opiate), morphine, opium, codeine and other pharmaceutical narcotics.  Her discovery  eventually won the coveted Lasker Award, a precursor to the Nobel Price, but was awarded to the chief laboratory scientist, i.e., her boss. Who knows what the real reasons were for Dr. Pert not being awarded the Lasker Award, but she certainly didn’t get the recognition she so deserved!

Recommended Reading and Listening by Candace Pert, PhD.

I strongly recommend Dr. Pert’s book and audio lecture for those interested in learning more about the biochemistry of how emotions affect states of health.

  • Molecules of Emotion:The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine
  • Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audio lecture)

Both are available through and many online book stores.


Creative Encounters at University of New Mexico Hospital

A recent CNN article (July 5, 2013) publicized the benefits of an arts-in-medicine program at University of New UNewMexicoHospitalMexico Hospital.  The mission of the  arts program is to “facilitate creative encounters that help patients and their families discover new meaning in life and death, or just for fun.”  Patricia Repar, director of the arts-in-medicine program says sometimes, this can be as simple as playing music at a patient’s bedside to help them calm down or sleep.

Patrica Repar knows from experience the value of engaging in the creative process.  After becoming severely ill during a visit to Ecuador, she states she “…was afraid and lonely and frustrated,” and remembers feeling like she was “tapped on the should by death.”



She decided the only way she could deal with it was to create collages, images, short and simple “sound” pieces, poetry and narratives.  “The daily art-making kept my life full of meaning,” says Repar, who has a doctorate in music composition. “And I found myself calm and pain-free until I could get further medical care in my home country of Canada.”

Here are the highlights of the article…


How an Occupational Therapist Used Creativity to Help a Child…

Occupational therapists help patients from a variety of backgrounds, from those who have debilitating medical conditions to soldiers returning from war with multiple injuries. My youngest sister has Down syndrome, so she has been working with an occupational therapist since she was a toddler. Kaitlin’s therapists have all been wonderful people. They’ve helped her develop her motor skills, which is a very important part of living a healthy life. However, one of the greatest things that Kaitlin’s occupational therapists have done for her is teaching her the value of creativity.

An occupational therapist’s goal is not only to address their patients’ physical needs, but to take into consideration the social, psychological and environmental factors that impact their patients’ progress. For my sister, especially when she was a baby, getting her to participate in things was not always easy. She would watch, but not join in when her twin brother (who does not have Down syndrome) would play. It wasn’t until her occupational therapist started using the arts in their sessions that Kaitlin started to get involved for the first time.

Creativity Isn’t Just for Artists

In occupational therapy, being able to think outside the box can be extremely beneficial. Occupational therapists have many techniques at their disposal when it comes to utilizing creativity. The arts are more than just tools for self-expression. They are also extremely valuable for hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning and speech development. For Kaitlin, her journey started with music.

She could make sounds and was very slowly starting to talk. Her occupational therapist started teaching her some songs, both the verbal lyrics and incorporating some sign language and hand gestures. From the very first note, Kaitlin was engaged. She watched intently the first few times. Then she started making sounds along with the music and moving her hands. Soon after, she was starting to learn some of the words and she’d mastered all of the movements. To see this sweet little girl go from knowing a handful of words to being able to sing entire songs was moving beyond belief.

Using the Arts as Patients Grow Up

As Kaitlin got older, her therapists continued to introduce new ways to use art to help aid her development. Since music was so effective, they continued to use songs to get Kaitlin moving and help with her speech development. Once her fine motor skills reached the point where she could hold a pencil on her own, they started using art as well.

I have stacks and stacks of pictures that Kaitlin has drawn for me throughout the years. Not only did drawing and writing help her, it also brought her immense joy. A box of crayons and a notebook are all my sister needs to have a good time. Seeing her skills develop is always wonderful, but seeing her happiness is the greatest gift of all.

Kaitlin is now about to go into high school. The creativity that her occupational therapists fostered in her is a huge part of the beautiful young lady that she has become. She still loves to sing and draw. She also has been dancing since elementary school. Whenever she is performing, she is truly in her element. As I watched her perform during her last dance recital, I thought of how far she’s come from the days when she used to just watch. Every pirouette and plié was a testament to the creativity her occupational therapists applied to her work.

This guest post was provided by Erin Palmer. Erin writes about physical therapy degrees and occupational therapy graduate programs for US News University Directory. For more information please visit

In Defense of Writing…

This post is written by a graduate in English literature turned nurse – Sashana Macatangay.  She is enrolled in the Master’s in Nursing program at Azusa Pacific University.  Sashana believes the act of writing helps with clarity of thought, sharpens critical thinking and observational skills, and last but not least, that the humanities should be incorporated into nursing curriculums.  And why you may ask?  This is Sashana’s story and explanation…

Florence Nightingale, the most celebrated pioneer of the nursing profession, once likened nursing to an art. From Nightingale’s perspective, nursing was, in nightingale-creativityinhealthcarefact, “the finest of the Fine Arts.” She makes a valid argument. In her analogy, Nightingale aptly compares the work of a nurse to that of a painter or sculptor. Both disciplines require exclusive devotion and hard preparation. Both also incorporate a strong human aspect. Because of this human aspect in nursing, it is important that nursing students exercise skills in the Humanities, particularly writing. Good writing skills in any discipline serve the purpose of promoting individuality, sharper critical thinking skills, and the formation of more articulate thought processes. In nursing, specifically, writing skills help to promote professionalism, credibility, and the dissemination of useful healthcare-based knowledge, which is valuable to hospitals, clinics, and care facilities everywhere.

I am contributing to this blog because I wish people to know why I believe writing is necessary in nursing education. I am well aware that the bulk of nursing students absolutely detests writing and do not share the same opinion as I do. Hopefully through this article, I will have provided a solid argument writing-creativityinhealthcaredefending the importance of writing. However, before I expand more on why I believe writing is important to nursing, it should be noted that I might be a little biased due to my academic history. I graduated with a liberal arts degree—more specifically, an English degree. I made the decision to change my career path several years ago, and I am currently more than half-way finished with my second degree in nursing.

But let’s not lie. My initial attraction to the nursing career was a bit more superficial. During my years as an undergraduate student of UC Irvine’s School of Humanities, my goals were much different. I planned on pursuing a career as a music journalist. I dreamed of securing a position at Rolling Stone or Spin. I was determined to get there. However, the sad reality of the music journalism career made itself evident when I applied to a handful of alternative music magazines with no actual success. A long period of taking out odd jobs and engaging in continuous soul-searching prompted me to consider nursing as a way to financially stabilize myself and help provide for my family in the future. It wasn’t the most pure reason for wanting this career, but it’s the truth. I was a girl in her early 20s who loved music, art, and literary prose. I even manned my own radio program as a DJ at Orange County’s KUCI and was heavily involved with the non-profit organization for several years. In the past 5 years, I’m sure that no one would’ve ever guessed that the beats per minute I would be counting would be heart rates, and not the speed of a vinyl record.

However, before you judge me too much about my initial attraction to the stability of the nursing career, please note, that I grew to love it. Why do I love it? Well, while many uninformed people consider nursing to be a mere science, I consider it an art. True, I did graduate with a liberal arts degree, and to many people, this has absolutely nothing to do with nursing. I have a completely different perspective on the relevance of my degree. In my mind, these two different courses of study are similar. The English major analyzes texts from different perspectives in search of literary truths. In a similar vein, the nursing student analyzes data and different variables, from different angles, in search of medical truths in the form of comprehensive diagnoses. I appreciate the multidimensional nature of nursing, and I love the different approaches and interventions that can be taken to address any single problem. Everyday is a constant exercise of critical thinking and creativity.

And believe it or not, I do also love the writing and research aspect that is involved in nursing. Uncovering life-changing data and making a difference in the world through the spread of knowledge and ideas is a very rewarding process that I would like to one day take a part of. For this reason, I’ve always believed that writing is one of the most important aspects of the nursing profession. In fact, according to Provision 7.3 in the Nurse’s Code of Ethics, “…nursing knowledge is derived from the sciences and from the humanities. Ongoing scholarly activities are essential to fulfilling a profession’s obligations to society” (“Code of Ethics,” 2001).

Writing is one of the most important scholarly activities that a nurse can engage in. Eloquence and proficient writing skills in nursing practice indicate competence, expertise, and wisdom in clinical practice. These skills can draw attention not only to the nurse’s expansive and specialized medical lexicon, but also to their extensive knowledge of relevant healthcare-related issues (which proves to be highly beneficial in patient-centered care).

Effective communication skills lend more credibility to the nurse, enabling the nurse to be a more effective and trusted patient advocate. As a result, the nurse may also use her unique writing style to expand and diversify the pre-existing body of healthcare-based knowledge that is used internationally in promoting more effective patient care.

Writing promotes a nursing culture of professionalism and aids in the spread of knowledge and ideas among patients and nurses alike. But if this reason alone is not enough to demonstrate its importance, we must also consider the scarcity of creative assignments in nursing education, which can be all too systematic and structured.

Nursing students rarely get the opportunity to express themselves as individuals. They are mandated to learn the same skills, and they must exercise these skills under a strict protocol. Their form of self-expression is often limited to a mechanical regurgitation of knowledge and hard, scientific facts. Creative processes such as writing promote individuality, critical thinking, and innovation. As nurses, we must exercise writing in order to establish what Theresa S. Drought in The Guide to the Code of Ethics for Nurses describes as “…new ways of understanding disease, health, the human response to illness, and innovations in nursing care” (Drought, 2008, p. 95). Writing is essential for stimulating self-expression, originality, and innovation in a profession that thrives on advanced practice research, evidence based practice, and scholarly inquiry.

Proper writing skills and the exercise of creative thought is paramount to the success of any professional within the healthcare industry. Nursing is certainly not exempt from this. Nursing curriculums often have a heavy emphasis on clinical skills and science-based knowledge. However, what many people fail to realize is that nursing is both a science and an art. Incorporating more writing into nursing education is beneficial because nurses who are strong writers are also strong communicators. Consequently, they are also more vocal patient advocates. As healthcare professionals, we must be aware that the exercise of sharing ideas and contributing interdisciplinary knowledge is a collaborative process that we all should participate in.

If you wish to connect with Sashana, email her at