Art Integrated BSN Program Teaches Nurses Humanist Approach

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – In 2019, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi received a four-year $2.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to initiate a new art-integrated accelerated nursing program. Almost a year later, the program’s first cohort of students showed off their work and displayed how art has helped them grow into better healthcare providers during the Crossroads of Art and Primary Care Symposium on Feb. 19. The symposium was aptly held at the Art Museum of South Texas.

 “We’ve all had pivotal moments that we didn’t really expect,” said Brittany Wilcut, student in the accelerated Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) program who worked on drawing, color theory, figure drawing, and design. “It’s been nice to share with others everything we’ve gained and to share our art.”

The five semester program teaches all the core courses required of a nursing student, but also includes classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, and embroidery. According to the Journal of Nursing Education, incorporating art improves nursing students’ skills of observation, communication, aesthetic knowing, teamwork, empathy, and much more. All of these skills combined are important for better patient outcomes, says Craig Klugman, Crossroads of Art and Primary Care keynote speaker and Professor of Health Sciences at DePaul University.

“In healthcare, we’re taking care of people, so we need to be able to connect with people and the humanities is one way of doing that,” Klugman said. “We assume that people who are in the clinical professions need to know science, but it’s as much of an art as it is a science. There are different ways of knowing, there are different skill sets, there are different ways of connecting.”

Dr. Heather DeGrande, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, helped design the accelerated BSN program. She says the first cohort has been a huge success and is slated to graduate in August 2020.

“I’m so excited to see them graduate,” DeGrande said. “I’ve been with them since day one, and the growth we’ve seen in this short time in their maturity, communication, teamwork, and collaboration skills has been tenfold. It’s been so rewarding.”

Steven Pham, another student in the accelerated BSN program, is excited to collaborate with his future healthcare team after he graduates.

“Nursing is a lifelong learning process, and you have to accept that you’re not always going to know everything,” said Pham, who created artistic sketches in of heart rhythms. “The incorporation of arts into nursing helps us to learn an acceptance of ambiguity. Another nurse once told me that it’s okay to not know everything. If you don’t know it, you find the information, or you find someone who does know. That really emphasizes teamwork.”

Two more cohorts will come through the program under grant funding, after which CONHS intends to sustain it with an incremental sustainability plan. A worthy pursuit, according to Klugman, who says Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s accelerated BSN program is ahead of its time.

“We’re seeing the beginning of a shift in the nursing field,” Klugman said. “In the nursing world, there are very few programs that are doing this, and the Island University is certainly the only one doing it to this extent. It’s not evolutionary, it’s revolutionary.”