Art therapy works wonders for St Barts’ stressed out doctors


Art therapy is being utilised by St Bart’s Hospital to help prevent doctor burnout.

The weekly sessions are being implemented in a bid to relieve stress among staff at the country’s biggest heart and cancer treatment centre, and have been rolled out following a successful pilot in 2015.

Studies have shown that up to 70% of oncologists experience burnout at some stage in their career, which can impact on patient safety. “These sessions are about providing support to our fantastic doctors, who do a remarkable job caring for our patients,” said Charles Knight, managing director at St Bart’s.

“We understand that the work they do can be emotionally challenging, and we hope these therapy sessions can help them deal with some of the stresses that naturally come with the job.” Back by popular demand, some of the hospital’s doctors have hailed the sessions as a welcome release. Dr Gehan Soosaipilla explained that it is easy to overlook the impact working in such an emotionally-charged environment can have on an individual.

“Being an oncologist is immensely rewarding and rightfully the focus is on improving patient care, but it is easy to ignore how stressful and challenging the day-to-day job can be and how this can impact practice,” he said.

“Initially, for myself, the art therapy sessions were a means of artistic expression and creativity, and also a welcome break from the routine, but as we completed each session I felt more resilient, more confident in sharing experiences with my colleagues and very much looking forward to the next session.”

Colleague Dr Shanthini Crusz agreed, dubbing the therapy as a “rare opportunity for
reflection in my otherwise busy schedule”.

“It was extremely enjoyable, and I learnt a lot about ways to think about, approach and process the challenges of the job. It has been hugely beneficial to my relationship with patients and colleagues.”

Meanwhile, the woman behind the scheme, lead art psychotherapist Megan Tjasink, says she is honoured to be playing a part in assisting the men and women who do so much for others.

“Oncology registrars are more likely to deliver bad news, treat complex symptoms, and care for patients where treatment at times will fail, so it is no surprise that work related stress is a factor,” she said.

“It has been a privilege to launch these art therapy groups where doctors can use their creativity to improve self-care and enhance patient care.”