Phoenix surgical resident finds solace in art

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As the COVID pandemic swept the country, many physicians found themselves engulfed in its pervasiveness. The virus has wreaked physical and mental havoc, underscoring the importance of doctors finding an outlet outside of work to ease stress.

“COVID has exacerbated an already fatigued workforce. Now, more than ever, medical trainees and physicians need to take care of their personal well-being,” said Daniel Drane, EdD, director of Wellness for Graduate Medical Education at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. “When physicians take care of their own well-being, it leads to greater job satisfaction, patient safety, and healthier relationships.”

For Harriet Barratt, MD, a fifth-year surgical resident, art has always been a source of inspiration. And as she spent long hours in the COVID intensive care unit, her ink paintings and drawings were a therapeutic exercise for the complex emotions she was processing.

Keep Still Moving Fast – large-format paintings – and Trial by Fire – pen and ink drawings – illustrate the juxtaposition of the experiences she had during her rotation in Alaska against the fast-paced environment dictated by the pandemic.

“Even though the two series are visually very different, they are both meant to explore how, over the past two years, COVID has changed the way we interact with our environment,” Dr. Barratt said.

The works, now displayed on the fifth floor of the Health Sciences Education Building as part of the Art in Medicine program, were not originally intended to be a gallery open to the public.

“These sketches were meant to be an extension of a series of previous works, not necessarily an exhibition per se,” she explained. “However, as I began to put paint on canvas and ink on paper, I realized I had something new to say. My experiences in hospital through COVID have been very inspiring. , and the new series took off soon after.

Dr Barratt said she has always used her art as an escape – a healthy way to let off steam after the stresses of a tough shift, week or month.

“Trying to put my hopes, frustrations, and feelings into paint helps me rationalize them in a healthy and productive way. It’s my own mode of therapy,” she said.

Making sure she has time for this passion has only helped her personally and professionally.

“If you express what excites you, you will be greeted with voices of encouragement, both inside and outside the hospital. You’d be surprised how many doors can open if you share your hobbies and interests with others,” she said.

Dr Drane shared this sentiment and stressed that it is particularly important for doctors, who often work long hours and face difficult professional situations.

“There are many types of wellness and mental health practices that anyone can do to be more mentally well and aware – mindfulness, meditation, gratitude, journaling, exercise, etc.,” he said. declared. “A truly effective practice is staying connected to hobbies, passion projects, and things or relationships that bring you joy.”

A version of this story was originally published by the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

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