The progressive care unit on the fourth floor at Haywood Regional Medical Center got a bit cheerier this month with the addition of vibrant artwork in the hallways.

Considering the floor is used for critical patients and the “compassion fatigue” of the staff who work with the these types of patients, the fourth floor was the perfect place to start the Haywood arts in medicine program, said Elizabeth Garlington, who helped spearhead the effort.

Garlington has been a visiting artist at two other hospitals before moving to Haywood, and immediately got involved in community arts initiatives, something she said has always been her passion.

Arts in Medicine is a national and international program that brings healing arts into healthcare systems. One of the oldest programs is at Duke University, Garlington said, which made bringing the program to Haywood, a Duke LifePoint hospital, a logical extension.

Ken Picou, a physical therapist assistant at the hospital, said the artwork is already serving its purpose.

“My patients walked farther today because they wanted to see the pictures,” he said. “One patient walked twice as far to see more.”

That’s exactly the point, Garlington said, thrilled that the art was serving its intended purpose. It has been shown that art triggers memories and leads to higher engagement where an individual will disclose more about how they are feeling.

“A nurse can document how far a patient walked if they say which picture they reached because they know it is 32 feet from pod to pod,” she said. “For patients with dementia, their long-term memories can be triggered by seeing the photo of Looking Glass Falls where they may have once gone hiking or quilts that prompt someone to remember a quilt they once made.”

The images not only benefit patients, Garlington is quick to note.

"In handling patients this sick, there is compassion fatigue for the nurses who are dealing with trauma every day," she said. "That's why we choose healing images, water, nature and scenes in Western North Carolina to bring a calmness." 


The artwork was carefully selected to feature local scenes that will trigger pleasant and familiar thoughts, Garlington said, and the color scheme was planned to be both motivating and soothing.

The scenic photographs were taken by Canton photographer David Gardner while the quilt blocks were made by Jane Cole and Wendy Bowen, who founded the Shady Ladies quilting group, and Dr. Frances Owl-Smith  the second physician and first woman physician of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, who also works with the Cherokee quilters group.

Garlington is working with other artists to complete the project.

Meeting regulations

When it comes to providing elegant artwork on patient floors in a hospital, things aren’t as simple as it may seem.

First off, there are requirements that the art must be fireproof. Then there is a need for the surface to be easily sanitized. Thanks to a technology called giclee (pronounced gee-clay), both are possible without compromising the quality of the piece of art.

Once the local art pieces were selected, Garlington took them to the Print Haus where the images were placed on a canvas using a high-quality inkjet printer.

Chris Kuhlman, general manager at Print Haus, said using a foam core and a less expensive canvas, the artwork came in at an affordable cost.

"These paintings meet all the codes," Garlington said. "They can be wiped down. They are hung 19 inches from the lip of the ceiling to meet fire code. Our original plan was to frame the photographs in a shadow box, but that didn't meet code, so we turned them into giclees. The artwork was scanned, enlarged and now meets all codes."

Only the beginning

Susan Mahoney, the chief nursing officer at Haywood Regional Medical Center, said it was a presentation by  Garlington and her husband, Dr. David Hegerich, to the hospital executive team on the therapeutic benefits of art in healthcare that got the program moving.

There are multiple initiatives in the works in subsequent phases of the program that will make the hospital part of the quilt trail program and add to the artwork in the hospital.

"This has been a minimal investment with a big impact," Mahoney said. "

Our goal in partnering with the artists in Haywood County is to have a positive impact on our patients well-being and enjoyment.  We are committed to looking at all avenues to make our community healthier."

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