Are you shocked and outraged that the Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly spent $20 million between 2004 and 2014 on artwork for its healthcare facilities?
That seems like a lot of money, especially since it came at a time when many veterans had to wait a long time before they could get treatment at VA facilities.
But that's really an operational issue isn't it?
The VA admitted that it's healthcare facilities were overwhelmed and understaffed during that time. If the median salary for a nurse is $65,000, $20 million would pay for about 307 additional nurses -- even fewer if you factor in benefits.
Value of Artwork for Healthcare Facilities
I guess the question is, then, what value does $20 million worth of art bring to VA facilities? It probably depends on what kind of artwork and where it's placed.
But we do know that artwork in patient rooms -- especially nature scenes -- helps relieve pain and stress and increase overall well-being. It's hard to put a number on that, but the annual cost of pharmaceuticals for pain management in the U.S. has been estimated at $16.4 billion.
If viewing artwork reduced the use of pain meds by just 1%, that's a savings of $154 million.
Of course, that's not just in VA facilities, but you get my point.
Creating a Healing Environment
Positive distractions, like artwork, are essential to creating healing environments that support patients and staff, and lead to better outcomes. And so much more. I was happy to see this statement from the VA when ABC News questioned it in July about the $20 million expenditure:
While we must be stewards of taxpayer dollars, we also know that providing comprehensive health care for patients goes beyond just offering the most advanced medical treatments. Artwork is one of the many facets that create a healing environment for our nation’s Veterans. We want an atmosphere that welcomes them to VA facilities, shows them respect and appreciation, honors them for their service and sacrifice and exemplifies that this is a safe place for them to receive their care.
And, not only can artwork help build morale and improve outcomes in VA healthcare facilities, it also creates jobs. Someone has to design, build, install, and maintain it.
Who Isn't for Art?
As an American taxpayer, I'm all for public art for veterans. So are most Americans, it seems.
In a recent poll, 70% of us favored government funding of public art for returning military personnel, to aid in their transition to civilian life. And 65% favored it for hospitals and healthcare institutions.
I think the VA is cleaning up its act when it comes to providing care for veterans. And I'm glad to see that it's embracing whole person care and designing healthcare facilities that address the mind, body, and spirit. Aren't you?
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