H. Hill (Mrs. Hill is the NRA consultant on hospital recreation.)
This is a brief report of a research project,
conducted from December 1954 to July 1955, on the effect of
recreation on 139 chronically ill patients in Bergen Pines Hospital,
Paramus, New Jersey.
The team of people making the study was
under the supervision of Dr. Roscoe Brown, a professor in the
research department of the School of Education, New York University.
Dr. Brown’s report follows.
“Patients on two floors of the hospital
participated in the project. These were chronically sick people,
about half of whom had been hospitalized for over one year.
There were sixty-eight patients, half of them men, on Floor
A during the period of the study. Their average age was sixty-four,
and most of them were hospitalized because of a neurological
condition. On Floor B there were seventy-one female patients
with an average age of seventy-two and a half years. All of
these were suffering from general chronic diseases of old age
such as cardiac ailments, arthritis, diabetes, cancer.
“From a modest beginning, the program
at the end of the six-month period included the following activities:
parties, movies, photo-tinting, bingo, social games, music,
newspaper, dramatics, library, gardening, and grooming.
“The following aspects of patient’s
behavior were studied:
1. State of health as measured by: (a) Medical Rating Scale,
rated by the attending physician; and (b) Self-Rating of Health,
the patient’s rating.
2. 2. Adjustment in the hospital as measured by; (a) Nurse’s
Rating Scale, rating of patient’s general cooperation
and adherence to hospital routine, and (b) Patient’s Adjustment
Scale, the patient’s evaluation of hospital services,
routine, and personnel.
3. Personality pattern as measured by: (a) projective personality
tests such as the Thematic Appreciation Test and the Sentence
Completion Test; and (b) psychological interview.
“The results were all rated on a five-point
scale ranging from 1 for excellent to 5 for very poor.
“Complete data were available for
twenty-two patients on Floor A and for seventeen patients on
Floor B. It was not possible to collect complete data on all
patients, some having died or been discharged during the project.
“The data obtained were analyzed through
the use of appropriate statistical tests, to determine the statistical
significance of any differences (i.e. the extent to which any
differences may be chance differences).
“Although the measures of patient
behavior presented above did not reveal statistically significant
differences, there were some patients who showed particular
improvement in the personality scale. This was not true of the
group as a whole, however.”
* * * *
The amazing thing was that the research
showed no change in the patients’ behavior, mental and
health testing. Nevertheless, individual notes kept by the recreation
worker, Miss Judith Fields, showed a change in the personality
and morale of many of the patients. People who had previously
sat and stared at the walls came to watch the movies and play
passive games. Stroke cases, who had not smiled in months, beamed
happily at the music that was brought to them consistently.
Several patients who had been completely depressed became interested
in the art of photo-tinting. For those who had seen the ward
before recreation came to it, and then afterwards, it is almost
incomprehensible to realize that in the actual research no changes
were noted. The most amazing finis to our six-month research
was that, on the day we withdrew our recreation worker from
the hospital, the administrator told me that we would wait perhaps
a year before engaging another—this time on the hospital’s
budget. Exactly three days passed when he phoned me that the
patients who had been a part of the research were so upset about
the sudden withdrawal of their activities program, that they
had created every nuisance possible with their relatives and
friends, and were demanding that a recreation worker be hired.
The worker was engaged, the hospital is thriving recreationally,
and to quote the superintendent, Dr. Rufus Little, “My
hospital was once just a place to treat the diseases and symptoms
of my patients. Today, thanks to recreation, we feel we are
a thriving community.”
As Doctor Brown states further, “It
is of interest to note the impact of recreation at Bergen Pines
on the community in which it serves. Where there were few volunteers
at the beginning of the program, now there are many. The recreation
department is now a regular part of the hospital program, with
the enthusiastic support of the community and by the literal
demand of the patients.
The results of this project indicate that
the impact of a hospital recreation program seems to transcend
the effect on the patients alone. The recreation program appears
to have a social function in the acceptance of a hospital by
the community and on the way in which a community thinks of
its sick. This project has raised many interesting questions
which are challenges to the recreation profession as well as
to the psychological and medical fields. It appears that further
explorations of this type should be conducted by the universities
and hospitals of the nation.”
* * * *
I wish I knew the answer to this question:
Are the tools available today for adequately testing the value
of recreation, or is it, perhaps, impossible to test the morale
and spirit of a person? Only much more research will give us
the answer. I certainly would be interested in comments from