Healing & Creativity at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center

The Community Living Center (CLC) of the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DC VAMC) provides a shining example of how a team of dedicated leaders and staff can honor the service and empower the health of Veterans through innovation, creativity, and tight coordination and communication.

CLC Creative Arts
Vision—The Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center envisions the Community Living Center as a Center of Innovation where Veterans have access to high-quality arts programming, and creative expression is encouraged as a healing modality.
Mission—The Community Living Center of the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center is dedicated to improving Veterans’ health through a dynamic array of services in person-centered environments, thereby enhancing their quality of life.

At this 120-bed facility, dedicated and caring staff, provide patient-centered rehabilitation and restorative services, as well as inpatient long-term care, palliative and hospice services. Along with traditional methods of care, the DC VAMC offers Veterans the opportunity to heal the mind, body, and spirit through its CLC Healing Arts Program. At the heart of this program lies an understanding of the aging process: moving beyond the “deficit” approach that stresses losses and decline to embrace an “asset” approach that rejoices in the strengths, achievements, and potential of later life—not in spite of aging, but because of aging.

In 2010 the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) and the CLC at the DC VAMC developed a strategic plan and kicked off a pilot program for the Healing Arts Program. This program showcases how the CLC aligns itself with the DC VAMC’s overarching priorities and VHA directives for providing personalized, proactive, patient-driven care to its Veterans. In fall 2013, the Healing Arts team began operationalizing the Healing Arts Program – so that it can be sustainable, measurable, and replicable.

The team set up aggressive goals and objectives. They brought in talented, caring, professional artists to lead rich, healing, creative activities. They improved processes to track activities of patients and capture information in patient care plans.

To continue with this program, leadership support and guidance will be crucial, and communication between departments will be key. While leaders set the path, it is the employees who are the ambassadors. They serve patients every day and are the people with the true power to augment the healing experience for our Veterans. The Healing Arts Team looks forward to continuing to strengthen the program, reach more residents, and help staff deliver the care to Veterans that they have earned and deserve.

Healing Arts Activities

Weekly healing arts activities are listed on the CLC activities calendar and are open to Veterans, staff, and family members or visitors:

Shibashi (Tai Chi)  Tai Chi is a movement and breathing exercise that incorporates mind, body, and spirit principles.
TimeSlips TimeSlips uses the open, poetic language of improvisational storytelling to invite people with memory loss to express themselves and connect with others. 
Think Tank In a facilitated, interactive discussion of world events, history, and culture, residents have the opportunity to share their reactions and thoughts. 
Open Studio This free-blow open art-making time allows residents to express their artistic ideas through painting, drawing, or other media. 
Art Cart Art Cart is a portable art-making experience that brings materials to veterans at their bedside to encourage creative self-expression. 
Life Stories Life Stories documents veterans' lives in the  military and beyond through photos and stories from their past. These stories are then distributed in the CLC newsletter. 
Morning Jazz Morning Jazz is an atmospheric jazz performance by a musician each Monday morning in the CLC atrium. 
Shift Change Shift Change is a music performance by a musician near the nurses' stations during afternoon shift change. 
The Capitol View Gallery Exhibitions are curated three times per year to offer engaging, educational, and beautiful images to grace the corridors of the CLC. 
Self Portrait Collage During a bedside visit, an artist discusses a Veteran's life story and weaves together images from the Veterans' collection of memorabilia combined with new images to create a story-board. 
Phillips Collection Partnership In a partnership with Americas' First Museum of Modern Art, Veterans will be given a personalized, docent-led tour. When they return, they will work with the professional visual artist to create a piece of visual work based on their experience.