In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 25, 2014

Drawing the worry away

By In the Loop

James Rase may not have formal art training, but he most certainly does have a love of drawing, a creative mind, and a strong desire to make his patients feel more at ease during their time in the hospital. And for the past 10 years, he's been doing just that by drawing pictures of his patients in scenes and settings that take them back to life before illness struck.



Patients lucky enough to have Rase as their patient care assistant often wake to find drawings on the white boards in their rooms. "I've been drawing all my life," Rase tells us. "It's just something I like sharing." His patients and colleagues got their first taste of his skills back when Rase was working on the Francis 5 thoracic surgery unit in Rochester. As staff on the unit began noticing his drawing in patient rooms, "I basically became the resident artist there," he says.

There was the young heart transplant patient Rase helped care for. "I would go up there and do artwork for her," he says. "I drew this long lab coat that had a picture of her during her healthy years doing some of her hobbies. She had these headphones she liked to wear, and so I really customized the drawing to her."

Then, there was a patient who loved trains. "So one evening," Rase says, "I drew a detailed picture of a steam engine from the late 1800s pulling up to a coal station on his white board," Rase says. "Then, every time I'd come back into his room I'd add something new to the scene."

Recently, Rase also helped care for another patient who, despite having lost his speech, was able to communicate to Rase that he'd been a farmer all his life and that he loved watching old Western movies. "And so I drew him in a John Wayne-style cowboy hat with a bandana around his neck sitting on a tractor tilling a farm," Rase says. "And I guess I nailed it because his family seemed pretty impressed. That's putting it mildly, according to the patient's son. "It was so well done and so well captured my dad," he says. "He even captured his facial expressions."

Sadly, the farmer passed away a short time later, but his son says the additional comfort and care Rase provided through his drawing helped ease the family's pain. "James was so kind to my father," he says. "It was pretty normal for my father to just be lying there looking at that picture. It was something that obviously made an impact on him. And that makes what James did even more important."

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Tags: Employee Stories

This is so wonderful. James Rase, you are one amazing person, I can just see the joy in patients’ faces when you draw and they have a unique photo about them to gaze upon. You light up their lives!


James, what a great gift you have. Sharing this talent in the way you do is what sets Mayo Clinic and its employees apart from other healthcare organizations. Thanks for making a difference in our patients’ lives.


This is fantastic and a great way to give the gift of a smile to your patients! I truly believe it’s the small things like this that make a BIG difference. Keep up the great work! I am drawing inspiration from your work… no pun intended =).


Jimmy, was my next door neighbors Son!,Jim is a fine young Man…..He grew up without alot of things Young men have Today! He was such a nice kid willing to help and do alot of things, in and around the neighborhood! Talking to him one time, i said i wanted a certain picture on my Bike Tank….next thing i knew Jimmy had something drawn up! I believe Jim was maybe 12 years old at the time!So i let him put his hand drawn art on my tank (and its there to this Day)I am proud Jimmy of what you have become! But most proud of knowing you first hand! And the things you are doing to make this world just a little better place…………


I sure would have liked to have him draw on my hospital wall after knee surgery.


James found a way to really, truly individualize patient care in a way that is uniquely his own, and that not only reflects positively on James for using his creativity, but also on his colleagues and his supervisor for supporting him in breaking the mold. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

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