Artwork for healthcare. Courtesy National Organization for Arts in Health

A San Diego nonprofit began a GoFundMe campaign Friday to help bring free expressive art programs to health care workers struggling with anxiety and other symptoms that could lead to burnout in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Organization for Arts in Health is a nonprofit in Hillcrest focused on giving art therapy resources to healthcare workers.

The program it launched Friday, called “Arts for Resilience in Clinicians,” will feature artists and art therapists leading interactive projects through videos and virtual sessions.

The pilot program will begin this June in six facilities, with an eye to expanding nationwide as financial support grows. The facilities are: UCSF Health in San Francisco; Contra Costa Health Services, Martinez, Calif.; Penn State Hershey, Hershey, Penn.; Hennepin Health, Minneapolis; Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, N.D.; and New York Health, New York City.

Burnout in clinicians has long been a topic of concern in the health care industry, a release from the organization said, with studies showing pre- COVID-19 burnout rates ranging as high as 44-54% in physicians, with similar rates for nurses.

Many health care experts are warning these numbers will increase as a result of the pandemic.

“We’re starting to see some impact now, but the consensus is that burnout rates and the numbers of people leaving clinical work are about to jump beyond anything we’ve ever experienced,” said Dr. Alan Siegel, family physician at Contra Costa Health Services, NOAH board member and ARC project co-director.

“Offering enhanced, immediate options to help health care workers cope with anxiety and avoid burnout is critical. Healthcare workers need to be healthy in both mind and body so they can continue doing their work effectively and safely. That’s why NOAH created this program,” Seigel said.

The ARC program will feature interactive art sessions offered through videos and virtual rooms. Each session will allow healthcare workers to engage in the creative process rather than passively watching a performance and can be accessed online or through an app. Sessions on writing, poetry, dance/movement, drama, music, painting and other forms of expressive arts will be available.

According to ARC project curator and co-director Cynthia Perlis, the programs are intended to offer a release from the overwhelming emotions health care workers are experiencing.

“The programs are developed by professional artists and art therapists who have experience in helping others alleviate anxiety and avoid the symptoms of burnout,” she said.

The ARC project’s GoFundMe page was established to help raise funds to bring the program to life.

“We hope to harness the enormous goodwill the public is showing health care workers so we can offer caregivers healthy, effective options for relief,” said Perlis.

— City News Service

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