Tracy Balboni: Spirituality in Health Care

By Anna Medaris Miller

Nothing could dull the woman's pain. Every time the medical team asked her to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, "she would uncontrollably sob," remembers Dr. Sheri Kittelson, medical director for the University of Florida Health Palliative Care Program.

Not only heart-wrenching for the clinicians to experience, the patient's pain complicated her treatment since moving, bathing, feeding and otherwise caring for her proved excruciating. "We couldn't meet her need," says Kittelson of the 30-something mother who was hospitalized with a terminal illness.

But that began to turn around when representatives from the hospital's Arts in Medicine program helped the patient – who turned out to be a talented artist – launch a project painting birdhouses, which she gifted to her young daughter. Since her physical pain had been intensified by the emotional pain of knowing she'd leave the little girl motherless, the project helped alleviate it so much that she required fewer medications from there on out.

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