Looking is not seeing: using art to improve observational skills

J Nurs Educ. 2009 Nov;48(11):648-53. doi: 10.3928/01484834-20090828-02. Epub 2009 Nov 6.


This project evaluated the effects of an art museum experience on the observational skills of nursing students. Half of a class of non-nurse college graduates entering an accelerated master's degree program (n = 34) were assigned to a museum experience, whereas the other half (n = 32) received traditional teaching methods. Using original works of art, students participated in focused observational experiences to visually itemize everything noted in the art piece, discriminate visual qualities, recognize patterns, and cluster observations. After organizing observed information, they drew conclusions to construct the object's meaning. Participants visiting the museum subsequently wrote more about what they saw, resulting in significantly more objective clinical findings when viewing patient photographs. In addition, participants demonstrated significantly more fluidity in their differential diagnosis by offering more alternative diagnoses than did the control group. The study supports the notion that focused viewing of works of art enhances observational skills.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication
  • Cues
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Education, Nursing, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Museums
  • Nursing Assessment* / methods
  • Nursing Diagnosis
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Observation* / methods
  • Paintings* / education
  • Paintings* / psychology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Perioperative Nursing / education
  • Program Evaluation
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Students, Nursing* / psychology