Doctors from the country’s biggest heart and cancer hospital have been attending art therapy groups to combat stress and avoid burnout.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London is offering weekly art therapy sessions to its oncology registrars. During a six week therapy programme, doctors create and talk about artwork, helping them to manage the stresses that come with caring for patients with cancer.
Charles Knight, managing director at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “These sessions are about providing support to our fantastic doctors, who do a remarkable job caring for our patients. We understand that the work they do can be emotionally challenging and we hope these therapy sessions can help them deal with some of the stresses that naturally come with the job.”
Studies have shown that up to 70 per cent of oncologists experience burnout, which can impact on patient safety. To get ahead of this problem, St Bartholomew’s Hospital first launched a six week pilot of the art therapy sessions in 2015, which significantly reduced the symptoms of burnout and received positive feedback from doctors. Due to popularity, the sessions are now running regularly.
Dr Gehan Soosaipilla from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: "Being an oncologist is immensely rewarding and rightfully the focus is on improving patient care, but it is easy to ignore how stressful and challenging the day-to-day job can be and how this can impact practice. Initially, for myself, the art therapy sessions were a means of artistic expression and creativity, and also a welcome break from the routine, but as we completed each session I felt more resilient, more confident in sharing experiences with my colleagues and very much looking forward to the next session."
Dr Shanthini Crusz from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “Art therapy gave a rare opportunity for reflection in my otherwise busy schedule. It was extremely enjoyable, and I learnt a lot about ways to think about, approach and process the challenges of the job. It has been hugely beneficial to my relationship with patients and colleagues.”
Megan Tjasink, lead art psychotherapist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital said: “Oncology registrars are more likely to deliver bad news, treat complex symptoms and care for patients where treatment at times will fail, so it is no surprise that work related stress is a factor. It has been a privilege to launch these art therapy groups, where doctors can use their creativity to improve self-care and to enhance patient care.”