When one thinks of resident training and medical education in the 21st century, images of hospital halls, thick textbooks, and innovative technologies often come to mind; but does anyone ever picture groups of residents standing around an art gallery, learning how to look carefully at Renaissance paintings?
Though lessons in medical training have traditionally been of a more technical, scientific nature, one forward-thinking health care professional will show ICRE 2015 attendees how using the left brain during residency can produce better doctors, during: The stories of art: A reflective approach to arts-based training and professional practice.
This dynamic workshop, led by Joyce Zazulak, MSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP and art educator Nicole Knibb is based off of the success of the Art of Seeing™ visual literacy course, which she developed in collaboration with the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Canada. The Art of Seeing™ helps medical residents build skills of observations, communication and empathy by learning to look at art.
Dr. Zazulak recently took the time to talk to ICRE about the benefits of (and myths around) arts-based training, The Art of Seeing™, and her exciting workshop taking place at ICRE 2015 on October 23 (1100-1215 PDT).
Q: How can arts-based training help turn residents into better physicians?
Because art can often have multiple meanings and possibilities for interpretation, the answers are never clear. Our own personal experiences often affect how we see and what we see in works of art. Learning to look at art translates into learning to look at (and listen to) our patients more completely and accept that we don’t always have all the answers. We hope to create new meaning to the phrase, “I am going to see my patients now!”
We created The Art of Seeing™ visual literacy course to open up more interesting and inspiring ways to develop visual competency; a clinical skill that is not easily taught. Our hope is that this will enhance resident competency in observation, reflection, and non-verbal communication, which in turn aid the development of compassion and empathy. Ultimately, this can lead to increased diagnostic accuracy.
The Art of Seeing™ takes place at the McMaster Museum of Art, and brings the residents into a completely different environment; a calm and contemplative environment away from the busy clinical setting. Each session is based in the gallery, looking at and discussing artworks in order to develop observational skills through formal analysis. Connections are continually being made to our clinical work through the use of observational and reflective writing exercises, which also occur between sessions.
Q: What is the importance and significance of art and visual literacy in the training of healthcare professionals? Why is it particularly important today?
We think the importance and significance is twofold: to improve patient care and also to promote self-care for physicians. Over the past several years, much has been written about the importance of developing reflective healthcare professionals who are able to provide compassionate, caring, and sustainable care to patients. There is mounting evidence that these traits can be taught in the art gallery.
While medical advancement is very important and necessary, the heavy reliance on advancing technology means we run the risk of the patient’s story of illness being replaced with the doctor’s story of disease. We feel our program can address this tension in healthcare care and healthcare education. These techniques are particularly interesting to the medical education community as recent research has shown that trainees’ levels of empathy reach their lowest levels during residency and finding new ways to nourish this domain of professional development is of paramount importance. Even beyond medical school and residency training, healthcare in general is at risk of developing compassion fatigue and burnout. We view the Art of Seeing™ program as one way to help protect against the cost of caring.
Q: What sorts of skills can an arts-based approach teach that more traditional approaches cannot?
Learning how to formally analyze and interpret works of art — a Humanities skill —allows for examination of human life outside of illness, to gain a wider understanding of humanity and how different individual stories, experiences, cultures and societies are reflected through visual art. Our program relies on evidence-based looking in a collaborative, problem-based learning environment. The Art of Seeing™ is an alternative way to improve observation skills with works of art rather than clinical imagery. The artwork is fresh and new, and engages learning in a different way.
Q: What are some of the biggest myths and/or misunderstandings around arts-based training in healthcare?
That art is often seen as extraneous or luxurious, overly emotional and impractical. We hope to change perspectives and suggest that visual art is a necessary (and very creative and interesting) means of communicating human experience in order to better know each other. This is particularly important because we know that medicine, like art, takes place within cultural and social context. Cultural influences and interactions with each individual’s experience of illness can affect the way medicine is practiced.
Q: What can participants expect from your ICRE 2015 workshop, “The stories of art: A reflective approach to arts-based training and professional practice”?
Participants will get to learn the skill of formal analysis, a rigorous way of approaching a work of art, and some art history. We’re also using works of art in a creative way to move beyond just observation and move into reflective writing. The works of art serve as the starting point to explore our personal and professional narratives of caring.
Q: How has using an arts-based training approach impacted you in your own life, and professional practice?
The personal impact of using an arts-based training approach has rejuvenated and rekindled my passion for teaching. This innovative and engaging combination of art-based visual literacy and narrative reflective writing into healthcare education are the necessary steps in nourishing the development of compassionate healthcare providers.
Dr. Joyce Zazulak is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University, and practices medicine at the McMaster Family Practice. She has a particular interest in the use of art and visual literacy in the training of healthcare professionals.