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Visit Virtual Art Galleries to Improve Clinical Observation

Gazing at art may seem like only a recreational activity, but research has shown it has substantial benefits for healthcare workers—benefits that can improve their delivery of healthcare to patients.

Gazing at art may seem like only a recreational activity, but research has shown it has substantial benefits for healthcare workers—benefits that can improve their healthcare delivery to patients. For example, one study from 2015 found that nursing and medical students improved their observation skills from a semester-long class focused on using art observation to improve clinical observation skills. The findings suggest that studying art may reduce bias in observation and decision-making among healthcare professionals.

During the class, future clinicians from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio met at McNay Art Museum and practiced Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). Though VTS was initially developed to help kindergarteners observe art, the simplicity of its questions is perfect for helping working professionals take note of visual information without bias: “What do you see? What do you see that makes you think that? What more do you see?”

Students visited their assigned “art patients” for 30 minutes at a time, researched the art, and described it to their peers to practice listening skills. The students then applied these skills to live models that they examined and diagnosed. During pretests and post-tests, the instructors assessed skills and themes related to emotion, evidence, medical language, and storytelling in the students. They found they improved their medical observations while using less emotion in their assessments. They also observed more things later in the course.

So what does this all mean for working professionals today, who can’t exactly take courses in art history or spend their days roaming art museums? One way to unwind after a shift, or even fill some time during a break or before a shift, could be to take virtual tours through the country’s and the world’s top museums. Loads of galleries, big and small, offer virtual tours that range from simply flipping through images to actually “walking” through the museum the way people use Google street view. Below we’ve pulled together some of our favorites for you to check out. See if you can use the VTS method to improve your observation skills, especially with a colleague or friend.

  • The British Museum in London features art and history and lets you begin by selecting a category: Art and Design, Living and Dying, Power and Identity, Religion and Belief, and Trade and Conflict. From there, you make selections from an interactive timeline that takes you to each item with a blurb about it.
  • The Guggenheim in New York uses Google StreetView to allow you to walk along its rotunda and down its famous winding staircase, with the opportunity to turn and observe art around you on the way.
  • If you’d like to practice your observation skills with Vermeers or Rembrandts, check out Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, where Google Street View lets you pick a hall to wander down and zoom in on masterpieces like Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.
  • If you haven’t had enough Dutch art, head to another great Amsterdam museum for all things Van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum offers the yellow person icon so that you can have your own Van Gogh experience. See his Almond Blossom or one of his most famous paintings, The Bedroom. Or, to brighten your day, spend time gazing at his Sunflowers.
  • Speaking of Renaissance, one of its centers was Florence, and now you can visit Florence’s Uffizi Gallery with the same yellow icon. Check out work from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or another of your favorite Ninja Turtles.

These are only a handful of the museums you can visit using Google’s Art and Culture Collections, where you can choose from more than 200 other museums worldwide. And if you’d prefer to view architecture and outdoor art, Google has your back there too.

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