See, Do, Teach: A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Impact of Visual Art Experiences on Burnout

Presented at Pediatric Academic Society Conference in Baltimore, MD (April 2019).

Tedford NJ, Babal J.

Natalie Tedford
Natalie Tedford, MD

Background: Research shows that narrative medicine improves physician and trainee wellbeing. However, the impact of visual art experiences on burnout and wellbeing has not been well explored.

Objective: Investigate the impact of visual art experiences on burnout

Design/Methods: Physician trainees and faculty physicians from a Midwest, university hospital completed three visual art themed sessions: observation, creation, and instruction. Participants completed pre and post intervention surveys assessing burnout using the validated single-item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization as well as provided qualitative descriptions of perceived impact of art in medicine. After each session, participants shared written reflections on each visual art experience. A paired t-test and thematic analysis were used for pre and post intervention analysis.

Results: Of the 14 participants, 85% were female, 69% were medical students, and 9 (64%) completed both pre and post intervention surveys. The average burnout measure for emotional exhaustion increased from 3.4 (SD=1.6) to 3.8 (SD=1.3) while depersonalization decreased from 3.2 (SD=0.7) to 2.9 (SD=0.9) after intervention, but this change was not statistically significant for either emotional exhaustion (p=0.4) or depersonalization (p=0.28). Qualitative assessment indicated that visual art experiences were enjoyable and perceived as facilitating a relaxing environment for reflection and interpersonal connection. Five themes were present: (1) increased interpersonal connection, (2) enhanced curious observation, (3) broadened perspective, (4) enabled empathy, and (5) provided an emotional outlet.

Conclusion: Participation in group visual art experiences may improve symptoms of burnout in physician trainees and faculty physicians. Our pilot suggests improved symptoms of burnout as demonstrated by qualitative analysis of written reflections, which indicated visual art experiences provide a space for self-reflection, observation, and potential for burnout prevention through resiliency skill building. However, larger studies are needed to evaluate the impact of group visual art experiences on reducing burnout amongst medical professionals. The medical humanities, specifically visual art experiences, could serve as a vital resource to address physician burnout by implementing interventions in medical education and/or professional training/practice settings to help mitigate burnout and aid in wellbeing.