“A healing arts culture can lighten the burden of illness carried by patients and their families,” says Sharon Toups, STPH chief operating officer. “It can speed recovery and helps to retain staff.” At STPH, the Healing Arts Initiative is a program of the St. Tammany Hospital Foundation to promote art as a core component of healthcare and the healing process in the hospital and its outpatient facilities.
The St. Tammany Hospital Foundation Healing Arts Initiative launched in 2004 out of an employee campaign. Employees donated more than $150,000 to fund programs including the player piano in the hospital lobby, aquariums in both the Pediatric Unit and the Cordes Outpatient Pavilion, Healing Ceiling tiles in MRI and CT rooms as well as a restful south Louisiana landscape mural in the Radiology Department created by artist Linda Wheat.
The quietly artistic character of 4South, which opened in April 2008, reflects the Healing Arts. “It’s a soothing space, where everything is soft, pleasing and quiet,” says Charley Strickland, executive director of the foundation.
STPH worked with Fauntleroy Latham Weldon Barré Architects, whose president Kieran J. Weldon AIA notes, "Our goals were to provide a unique patient and family experience that echoed an upscale hotel through the use of texture, sustainable materials, interactive water features and ceiling canopies. We worked with organic wallpaper prints and both passive and natural lighting for each patient. We focused on the patient, family, visitor and caregiver."
The large, wood-enhanced rooms on 4South, each featuring a select piece of artwork, are designed to create a nurturing, home-like space for patients and their families. The rooms are divided into “zones” for the patient, families and staff, with curving lines and changes in flooring gently delineating each space.
Lighted ceiling panes above each bed display scenes of clouds or trees. Outside the rooms, special flooring in the halls helps reduce noise so patients can get critical rest. The use of pendulum lights minimizes glare and adds to the calm and peaceful effect.
Near the entrance to the unit, bubbles trickle down the sides of an illuminated glass “bubble wall” that glows with slowly changing hues. “It’s a very soothing feature,” Toups says. “All of these aspects are helpful to patients and families in creating a comforting, soothing place to heal.”
STPH employees continue to play a critical role in the Healing Arts Initiative, including in ways that enhance the new fourth-floor unit. The employee committee funded the bubble wall and art-glass ceiling panes as a show of its commitment to bringing art to patients and staff alike.
The 2010 installation for healing arts is a meditation garden adjacent to the cafeteria patio, which, in previous years, was an unadorned space. It has been transformed into a tranquil setting of colorful plant life. Along the walkway is a carpet of mondo grass, which softens the hardscape. River birch trees offset the height of the walls, and boulders invoke a natural setting. The curved beds feature tranquil plant life, cast iron pots and a bird bath. A rock garden invites meditation among ground cover, blooming plants and a soothing fountain.
Music plays a vital role in the healing arts, with concerts in the lobby on the employee-campaign’s player piano, occasional visiting musicians and singers including a local harpist and choir, and the playing of Brahms’ Lullaby on the occasion of each new birth at STPH.
The foundation secured a grant from the Society for Arts in Healthcare for 20 hours of consulting to develop an extensive long-range plan for healing arts at STPH. Plans include not only the healing power of artwork, but also music, art and aroma therapy. Performing arts, storytelling and poetry may also help create a healing atmosphere for patients, staff and visitors. A good healing environment includes architecture and furnishings as well as landscape and horticulture, which are being included in hospital expansions.
The foundation encourages Northshore artists and other members of the community to join its Healing Arts committee as it looks for ways to expand the initiative to include music, performance, poetry and storytelling. “We are eager for community input and involvement,” Strickland says. For more information on the St. Tammany Hospital Foundation Healing Arts Initiative, call 898-4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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