Can an Arts Course Help Mitigate Medical Student Burnout?

Rebecca L. Volpe, Claire de Boer, Emily Wasserman, Lauren Jodi Van Scoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Burnout in healthcare providers begins early, with about half of medical students experiencing symptoms of burnout, and as many as one-quarter experiencing depression. While organizational, systemic-level changes certainly contribute to mitigation, organizationally sponsored individual-level changes may also play a significant role. Although the nature of the burnout epidemic and its impact on trainee wellness is fairly well understood, and interventions have been studied, there remains a gap in the empirical research examining the impact of the arts on medical student well-being. Methods: We designed a convergent mixed methods study to evaluate whether a 9-month course for fourth-year medical students called Art as Self Care (AASC) would help trainees develop habits that supported their well-being. An online survey was used to collect data at the beginning and end of each academic year on two consecutive cohorts of students. A focus group explored students’ experience with and perceptions about the course. Results: Qualitative results indicated that the AASC course provided positive distraction that is calming and allowed students to shift focus from the stresses of daily medical school life. Our quantitative results suggest that art might provide a slight protective effect in medical students: whereas 22% of the non-AASC students saw a worsening of their psychological distress across the fourth year of medical school, this was observed in only 13% of the AASC students. Discussion: Our study presents pilot and feasibility data to better inform future research and practice around the use of art to support medical student well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1032
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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