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Art Program Hones Med Students’ Visual Observation Skills

Students become better at observation and appreciate the importance of communication

FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — An innovative interdisciplinary program, Art Rounds, is effective for improving medical and nursing students’ physical observation skills, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of Nursing Education.

Craig M. Klugman, Ph.D., of DePaul University in Chicago, and Diana Beckmann-Mendez, Ph.D., R.N., of the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, examined whether fine arts instructional strategies would be of benefit in health professional education. Following participation in a pilot program, where students were exposed to fine art and instructed in the use of visual thinking strategies, the participants demonstrated improved physical observation skills, increased tolerance for ambiguity, and increased interest in communication skills. The Arts Rounds program was expanded to an elective course open to nursing and medical students at all levels. After the semester-long course, faculty compared the results to those of the original pilot program.

The researchers found that 19 students participated in the Arts Rounds course (12 medical students; seven nursing students). After the course, there was an increase in the number of words and observations that students made when looking at art images and patient pictures. Students also discussed emotions less and made more medical observations in the post-test examination. In free responses to post-test questions, students explained the importance of communication and collaboration, the benefits of patience, and the consequences of jumping to conclusions.

“Observation is key to diagnosis, and art can teach students to slow down and really look,” Klugman said in a DePaul University news release. “Art is a powerful tool for teaching, and this program helped nurses and doctors become more adept at observation and encouraged them to move away from making assumptions.”

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