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The pandemic has burdened hospital workers and patients alike with new challenges and stresses. To help deal with those challenges, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, in Towson, created an unusual program.

The Heart Cart program is based on the healing power of recreational art. Volunteers visit patients daily to explain the program and offer a variety of options for creating works of art.

Those options, also available to visitors, include coloring, painting, painting with a tutorial and others. Volunteers are used so the paid hospital workers are not over-burdened.

Patients have the option of taking the artwork home when they leave or leaving it with the hospital. Eventually, said Victoria Chahanovich, a patient experience analyst at the hospital, St. Joseph hopes to display the art permanently on its walls.

The program’s goal, hospital officials said, was to create an enjoyable resource for patients and visitors alike – an opportunity to engage in an activity that provided relief and joy – and indications are it has worked. A patient survey found that 100% of those surveyed would participate again, all of them would recommend the program to others and said it had improved their experience at the hospital.

“The Heart Cart Program is a recreational painting program designed to improve the patient experience,” Chahanovich said. The program, she said, “focuses on bringing joy to patients, uplifting spirits, and changing attitudes through the creation and development of art.

“Ultimately, the Heart Cart Program advances health care through a focus on creating meaningful moments for our patients.”

This is a winner profile from The Daily Record's Health Care Heroes awards. Information for this profile was sourced from the honoree's application for the award.