The performance was one of the hospital’s first events for its Arts in Health Initiative program, which has been developed in the last year. The idea behind this program is to use the arts to bring humanity into health care, said Kathryn MacDonell, the geriatric program manager at Texas Health Dallas.
“There's a new kind of definition of care that's beyond the hospital walls,” MacDonell said. “We're really looking at how we can embrace the whole person on a mental, physical, spiritual and emotional level, and the arts is absolutely the best vehicle to be able to [do that].”
The program prioritizes events that will improve patient care and recovery time with low-risk and medicine-free care options, as well as building support and connections with patients and the community, MacDonell said.
Some of the Art in Health program’s events are created with a prescribed treatment in mind for patients in the hospital, such as visual art, quiet spaces, and music and dance therapy classes, said Anna Tseng, a neurologist at Texas Health Dallas. Others, such as the Chamberlain performance, which was paired with photos with Santa and a DJ performance, are meant for awareness and community building, Tseng said.
“What we're also trying to do, especially with the event that we hosted yesterday, is just to kind of raise more awareness throughout the community that there are these other offerings and you don't necessarily have to be sick to partake in it,” Tseng said. “[Who] we're also trying to reach are the caregivers. So you may not be that patient, but if you are dealing with a sick loved one, then [this is] giving these individuals an outlet also to participate in things that they may not be able to otherwise.”
Events such as “The Nutcracker” are also beneficial to staff who are in need of a recharge, as music and engaging visuals can lead to the release of dopamine, or good endorphins in the brain, MacDonell said.
The performance was recorded and will later be added to the hospital’s internal TV channel for patients to watch later, Tseng said, and with added technology, future events may have the option of live-streaming to the hospital’s channel for those who cannot leave their rooms.
The hospital will showcase a holiday a cappella performance Dec. 11 by British vocal ensemble VOCES8 and hopes to plan one event each month in the coming year. Future events may range from poets or theater performances to musicians, MacDonell said, and the hospital is looking for more community partners and local artists to join the program.
MacDonell said that the Arts in Health program may reach other Texas Health hospital locations in the future but is currently focused on growing at its Dallas location. Plano and Allen locations are aware of and have been supportive of the program, Tseng said.
The Chamberlain Ballet also performed "The Nutcracker" at NorthPark Center on Dec. 7 in Dallas and will perform for Women's Auxiliary to Children's Medical Center Plano as part of Santa's Workshop on Dec. 15. All three performances follow the ballet's Thanksgiving weekend performances at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.