Art Cart: OHRH brings watercolors, coloring books and journals to patients' bedsides

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | Volunteer Deb Schrooten, left, and Elizabeth McHenry, volunteer specialist, look over the contents of the Art Cart on Monday in the lobby of Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. The mobile art cart can help in the healing process by bringing art to patients bedside in the hospital.

Owensboro Health believes art is good medicine.

In late April, Owensboro Health Regional Hospital started a program that brings art projects to patients' bedsides two days a week. The "Art Cart" has been so successful it was duplicated for the health system's Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, which encourages patients to draw, paint, color or write in journals daily while they receive treatments.

OH's Arts at the Beside Team came up with the idea of tricking out a medical supply cart with mini watercolor sets, easels and canvasses; large and small adult coloring books; and journals and pens, to name a few items. For long-stay patients, there's even a miniature watering can with a sunflower seed planted inside so patients can watch a flower grow during their stay.

Owensboro Health Foundation and the OH Volunteer Auxiliary funded the Art Cart.

The Art Cart is new to OHRH, but it is not the first time it's ever been done at a hospital. For example, OHRH's cart is modeled after a program at University of Kentucky HealthCare.

Since late April, OHRH's Art Cart has served 927 patients.

"Arts have been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and decrease the need for pain medication," said Shannon Parham, OH director of patient experience. "And it's a nice distraction to patients while they are here."

Also, participating in art activities have been shown to improve memory, reasoning and resilience in the elderly, according to a Harvard Health Publishing article titled "The healing power of art."

For several years now, the combination of art and healing has been a focus area for OH. The hospital's walls are decorated with original artwork, and musicians regularly perform in the lobby. Patients have access to an arts channel in their rooms.

Deb Schrooten, an OHRH volunteer, rolls the Art Cart around to patients' rooms.

"A lot of patients are so grateful there is something to occupy their time," Schrooten said. "It's a welcome distraction."

That's especially true during hours that family members work and visitation is low.

And when children are visiting a patient, the Art Cart offers kids a quiet, fun activity during what can be a stressful time.

"I have not heard one negative thing about the Art Cart," Schrooten said.

At some point in the future, the Art Cart may offer crafting supplies, said Debbie Luttrell, OHRH manager of volunteer and guest services.

"At Christmas, we could make ornaments with (patients)," Luttrell said.

The Art Cart is a free service. When volunteers are not available to bring the cart to rooms, nurses can call the volunteer office and request items to be delivered.

All items on the cart are new and have never been used. They meet the hospital's infection prevention standards.

The next step is to get an Art Cart for OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital, Parham said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835,

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