The sounds that fill hospital rooms can take on a discordant tone, as life-sustaining equipment beeps, hisses and blares. Chapel Hill non-profit DooR to DooR breaks through the noise, bringing to health care settings the sounds of a different healing sort, as documented in the new film “The Acoustics of Care.”
With this documentary, UNC Charlotte researcher Margaret M. Quinlan and colleagues profile DooR to DooR, founded by Joy Javits to bring performing, literary and visual artists to healthcare settings. The film shows how the arts can introduce more soothing sounds and sights into healthcare settings to facilitate healing.
This is the third and final film in The Courage of Creativity Initiative, which explores the role that artists and creativity can play in people’s wellbeing in health-related contexts. “Our research and creative activity is inspired and informed by the stories of individuals,” Quinlan says. “Storytelling is a powerful form of experiencing and expressing.”
Quinlan, an associate professor in Communication Studies and core faculty with the Interdisciplinary Health Psychology doctoral program, has collaborated on the films with Lynn M. Harter and Evan L. Shaw, in association with the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling. Harter is a professor with the Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University, and Shaw is chief videographer/editor with WOUB. The three are co-producers of the third film.
The Courage of Creativity Initiative has garnered recognition including a regional Emmy® award from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences based on a piece promoting the project. The first and second films in the series, Beautiful Remedy and Creative Abundance, also were nominated for regional Emmy® awards, for their examination of services for individuals with developmental disabilities, usually in the form of vocational and rehabilitative workshops and art programing in a hospital setting.
For Quinlan, the documentaries and the recognition they are receiving draw attention to the underlying research. “We hope to show an ongoing commitment to the applied nature of scholarship that fosters meaningful difference in the lives of people,” she says.
Prior to joining the faculty at UNC Charlotte, Quinlan completed field work with Harter in Athens, Ohio, bringing together people with developmental disabilities and professional artists. The research resulted in several book chapters and journal articles. Since joining UNC Charlotte, Quinlan has continued to collaborate with Harter on research projects.
These experiences, along with her dissertation on Dancing Wheels, an integrated dance company for people with and without disabilities, helped Quinlan recognize the benefits that the arts have when it comes to the care of patients. After UNC Charlotte Communication Studies colleague Dan Grano referred her to DooR to DooR, she spent five years traveling to Chapel Hill to volunteer and perform observations.
As ethnographers, Quinlan and Harter collect data through observation, interviews, and analysis of organizational documents. When working with DooR to DooR, they paid close attention to interactions between artists, patients, staff and family members.
Quinlan and Harter developed four research questions to guide her study related to professional artists: How do performers describe their experiences with DooR to DooR? How do they find it valuable? In what ways can hospital-based art programs benefit people? Finally, what do nurses need to know about arts in the hospital to better serve their patients?
Working with then-UNC Charlotte nursing graduate student Caitlin Hurdle, she published results in the Journal of Holistic Nursing in June 2014. Their article, titled “A Transpersonal Approach to Care,” noted common and recurring responses that they used to identify emergent themes.
Quinlan and Hurdle found that hospital-based arts programs may improve patient outcomes by reducing pain and depression and by relieving stress among staff and family members. The research found an overarching theme of the arts being therapeutic for all involved, by facilitating healing and providing respite for patients, families and nurses.
Words: Lynn Roberson – Portions of this story have previously appeared in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences print and online publication Exchange.
Words: Lynn Roberson | Image: Courtesy of the film producers | Portions of this story previously appeared in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences print publication, Exchange; writers: Tyler Harris and Cady Ray.