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Art, music, story: The evaluation of a person-centred arts in health programme in an acute care older persons' unit

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 15:40 authored by Karen FordKaren Ford, Tesch, L, Dawborn, J, Helen Courtney-PrattHelen Courtney-Pratt

Aims and objectives: To evaluate the impact of an arts in health programme delivered by a specialised artist within an acute older person’s unit.

Background: Acute hospitals must meet the increasingly complex needs of older people who experience multiple comorbidities, often including cognitive impairment, either directly related to their admission or longer term conditions, including dementia. A focus on physical illness, efficiency and tasks within an acute care environment can all divert attention from the psychosocial well-being of patients. This focus also decreases capacity for person-centred approaches that acknowledge and value the older person, their life story, relationships and the care context. The importance of arts for health and wellness, including responsiveness to individual need, is well established: however, there is little evidence about its effectiveness for older people in acute hospital settings. We report on a collaborative arts in health programme on an acute medical ward for older people.

Design: The qualitative study used collaborative enquiry underpinned by a constructivist approach to evaluate an arts programme that involved participatory art-making activities, customised music, song and illustration work, and enlivening the unit environment.

Methods: Data sources included observation of art activities, semi-structured interviews with patients and family members, and focus groups with staff. Data were transcribed and thematically analysed using a line by line approach.

Results: The programme had positive impacts forthe environment, patients, families and staff. The environment exhibited changes as a result of programme outputs; patients and families were engaged and enjoyed activities that aided recovery from illness; and staff also enjoyed activities and importantly learnt new ways of working with patients.

Conclusions: An acute care arts in health programme is a carefully nuanced programme where the skills of the arts health worker are critical to success. Utilising such skill, continued focus on person-centeredness and openness to creativity demonstrated positive impacts for patients, families, staff and the ward environment. Implications for practice: This study affirms the contribution of an arts in health program for older persons in an acute care setting in challenging the dominance of a task based medical model and emphasising person-centred care and outcomes.


Publication title

International Journal of Older People Nursing



Article number









School of Nursing



Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Evaluation of health and support services not elsewhere classified

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