RFC Essay Contest 2020: 3rd Place, Resident Category

Joie de Vivre

by Renee Rosati, DO

The French expression Joie de Vivre means a “delight in being alive, carefree enjoyment of living.” For many, the Joie de Vivre comes from spending time with loved ones, the thrill of competing in a sport, expressing oneself through art, and a myriad of other pursuits. When faced with new functional impairments, some patients may temporarily lose sight of the Joie de Vivre.

Painting has become a newfound passion of mine. As a painter, the way I visualize and interpret the environment has changed; trees aren’t just sap green, they’re hues of cadmium yellow and thalo blue. After suffering a life-altering incident, our patients’ mindsets and perspectives of the world also evolve. Although they may have different physical abilities, patients’ minds require stimulation, a respite from worrying or boredom, and their wounded self-confidence needs uplifting.

Music is an art form that has the ability to make individuals feel whole again. It is nostalgic, connecting us to memories of people and places. Music choices are intensely personal, particularly as patients experience health difficulties and deal with pain. In an effort to improve our patients’ overall well-being and raise their spirits, I set out to bring creativity to the austere environment of the hospital. By incorporating something else that I treasure, music, into my workplace, I was able to engage more intimately with the patient experience. I took advantage of the surplus of talent that the Music City has to offer and asked Nashville musicians to perform acoustic concerts in our hospital cafeteria. Since starting this initiative over two years ago, it has brought the hospital staff closer, given up-and-coming musicians a platform to perform, and brought many smiles and tears to my patients faces.

In a similar fashion, a garden therapy program has emerged at our rehabilitation hospital. After recruiting volunteers from local garden clubs, our patients work on their fine motor skills with an occupational therapist and a gardener while creating a special token to take back to their room. Patients have arranged elaborate floral bouquets, potted herbs, and assembled live poinsettia wreaths just to name a few. There is a palpable renewed sense of dignity when the patient has the chance to present a gift to their devoted caretaker. By beautifying our accessible raised beds, the garden volunteers have created a getaway spot to revel over the beauty of a vibrant dahlia or the savor the scent of a basil leaf. Providing patients with the opportunity to create or perceive art during their recovery is a potential therapeutic modality that addresses our patients more holistically. Music and gardening are only two examples, but art in all forms offers validation from peers, opens doors to making new friendships, and provides a sense of hope, which is paramount in any stage of recovery.

Like our patients facing obstacles during their rehabilitation, many of us physicians have overcome great odds to be where we are today. And through a myriad of different paths, here we are, a community of Physiatrists. As a field, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation attracts individuals who understand the art of communication and have a knack for empathy. Physicians who grasp the concept of emotional intelligence are able to be more introspective, insightful, and self-aware. Utilizing shared passions between healthcare providers and patients is an innovative way to provide a compassionate patient experience and further connect with our patients while fostering a sense of contentment in the workplace. When we feel a greater sense of purpose in our work, it is apparent in the way we carry ourselves in the wards and while delivering patient care. By practicing with this mindset, I hope we will find not only fulfillment of our own personal career aspirations, but will also best fulfill the needs of our patients through emotionally intelligent patient care. May we all find our own Joie de Vivre.

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Resident Fellow Council, AAP

Resident Fellow Council, AAP

Resident and Fellow Council of the Association of Academic Physiatry (@AssocAcademicPhysiatry)