Arts at the Bedside program brings joy to hospitalized patients

March 29, 2023

By working with the community, Arts at the Bedside program brings joy to hospitalized patients.

Abigail Santos, an artist in residence with Art with a Heart in Healthcare, at Mayo Clinic in Florida, provides a creative outlet for hospitalized patients.

Ms. Santos has an art degree from the University of North Florida, and she understands the value of art as both an artist and a patient herself.

She sees through a partnership between the Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities in Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida and Art with a Heart in Healthcare. Through that partnership, Ms. Santos works as part of Mayo’s Arts at the Bedside program, which pairs professional artists with hospitalized patients for creative activities that are designed to provide comfort and aid healing.

“I’ve seen art put a smile on someone’s face as well as bring tears to their eyes,” Santos says. She believes art is about “connecting with others” and is “a reminder of our humanity.”

Santos knows about the power of art from both sides of the bedside. In October 2021, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy. Art was part of her own healing process during treatment. She says the experience has helped her better relate to patients.

“I feel like I am more empathetic and have a better understanding of patients and what they’re going through, specifically those who are going through cancer and young adults with health issues,” Santos says.

Arts at the Bedside aims to provide a creative distraction for patients and their family members during hospitalization.

“It’s more about the process of making art and how it can help patients, not the end product,” Santos says. She believes many patients appreciate that her visits to their rooms are not for clinical reasons —and that she offers them a sense of autonomy and choice, and the power to say no.

Clynton Byer is one patient who says “yes” to visits from Santos. “When Abigail comes to visit, I look forward to doing something fun and carefree,” says Clynton, who is hospitalized as he awaits a heart transplant. “I look forward to her opening my eyes to art or artistic things I never thought of before.”
For Santos, it’s rewarding to be able to offer something that’s not always seen in the healing environment. She says she enjoys getting feedback from patients about how it has made their hospital stay better, brought them joy or has been a good distraction. She hopes to bring that to even more patients in the future.

Mayo Clinic offers Arts at the Bedside programs in Arizona, Florida and Rochester, MN.