REHAB Patients’ Artwork Enhances Studies, Lives of Future Nurses

After UH Manoa Nursing opened the state-of-the-art Translational Health Science Simulation Center dedicated to nursing education in 2012, the Center wanted to decorate the halls with artwork. Looking to one of its community partners, the School reached out to the Creative Arts Program at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific.

patient participates in REHAB’s Creative Arts ProgramREHAB’s Creative Arts Program is an innovative therapeutic art studio that complements existing rehabilitation therapy programs. As a way to enhance the recovery process and improve the quality of life for patients, the Creative Arts Program has touched the lives of more than 700 Hawaii patients. The program has offered more than 70,000 art sessions, and patients say that the program is an integral part of their emotional recovery.

Former double black belt martial artist Dennis Okada suffered from decompression sickness while diving and, after two weeks in a hyperbaric chamber, Okada arrived at REHAB to start his recovery. Okada has been an artist in the program for more than 8 years and says that he immerses himself in painting during recreational therapy, and that “painting has opened a door to unexpected surprises and an endless supply of satisfaction.”

patient participates in REHAB’s Creative Arts ProgramArtwork has a transformative effect on patients recovering from both physical and emotional trauma – but artwork also has an impact on those who view it. Before class starts in the Translational Health Science Simulation Center, the halls are filled with chatter and laughter as students and faculty walk to class. Since the REHAB Creative Arts Program artwork has been installed, students and faculty have stopped to look at the artwork before continuing on to class.

Joanna Vendiola says that “the paintings have definitely enhanced the learning environment” and that pausing to look at the artwork before continuing on with her busy day helps to release stress and anxiety. Knowing that the artwork was produced by patients from the REHAB Creative Arts Program has a special meaning for Vendiola: It inspires her to do her best as a nursing student. “These patients found a way to explore and express their struggles and internal feelings in a positive way, and their artwork helps us do the same,” said Vendiola.

Bringing real life into a simulated environment is one of the aims at the Translational Health Science Simulation Center. Integrating the human factor into the physical space is a constant reminder for nursing students that their hard work and goal of becoming a nurse will circle back to the people that they will one day help. The artwork from the REHAB Creative Arts Program is a daily reminder that at the other end of the brush is a patient – and that motivation helps nursing students stay focused on the reason they want to become a nurse.

About UH Manoa Nursing

patient artwork is displayed in the halls UH Manoa Nursing, the Nursing Capitol of the Pacific, is the leader in nursing education and research in Hawaii with outreach to Asia and the Pacific Basin. We support the mission of the University of Hawaii at Manoa: to provide an innovative, caring and multicultural environment in which faculty, students and staff work together to generate and transmit knowledge, wisdom, and values to promote quality of life and health for present and future generations. The school offers the BS, master’s, and doctoral programs. To reflect Hawaii’s unique cultural diversity and heritage, UH Manoa Nursing is committed to increasing Native Hawaiian and other underserved people in all nursing programs. For more information, visit

About the REHAB Creative Arts Program

The Creative Arts Program at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific Foundation was established in 1994. Utilizing a variety of art media as a treatment modality, this innovative therapeutic art studio complements existing therapy programs to enhance the rehabilitative process and improve the quality of life of our patients. Since its inception, more than 700 patients have benefitted from over 70,000 art sessions. For more information, visit

Back To Top