Quebec paramedics want to install art to ease ambulance stress

Inspired by art installations her hometown hospital, paramedic Julie Dubuc launched an art project of her own inside ambulances in Charlevoix region.

'Artbulance' pilot project in the Charlevoix hopes to catch on in other regions

The CTAQ ambulance co-operative is looking for soothing art submissions. Part of a pilot project launched by paramedic Julie Dubuc (far left), the art will be installed in ambulances to give patients something peaceful to look at. (Submitted by Dave Kidd)

Taking a trip in an ambulance is usually a very stressful experience. But some first responders in Quebec are hoping that gazing at an artwork overhead could calm patients as they make their way to hospital.

"No one takes a trip in an ambulance because they want to," said Julie Dubuc, a paramedic in the Charlevoix region. "There's so much equipment. It's a totally unknown environment for certain people."

An art enthusiast, Dubuc is working on a pilot project called Artbulance. The idea is to give people something to focus on — other than all that medical technology surrounding them.

Dubuc, who is part of the Coopérative des techniciens ambulanciers du Québec (CTAQ), was inspired by a similar initiative in Abitibi-Temiscamingue.

"There's a project that was done at the Amos hospital, where I'm from," said Dubuc. "The hospital administration collaborated with a local art centre and had canvases painted and suspended from the ceiling. They were set up over the beds of patients."

The Charlevoix region, where Dubuc has lived and worked for 12 years now, is known for its picturesque rolling hills and stunning views of the St.Lawrence River. It's also known as a haven for artists, who are drawn by that natural beauty.

But those mountains and vistas are cold comfort to someone strapped to a gurney for hours, on a sinuous road.

"In the region we often have to cover distances that are a bit longer than in urban centres," Dubuc said. "When the person [in the ambulance] is lying down, instead of a grey ceiling and spotlights in their face, they will have a work of art."

This is one of the works of art that's been installed in an ambulance in the Charlevoix, as part of a pilot project to relieve some of the stress experienced by people facing a medical emergency. (Submitted by Dave Kidd)

After testing out a few different types of material, Dubuc and her colleagues found the best way to install an image in an ambulance is to print a reproduction of an artwork or photograph, laminate it and place it on an adhesive support right above the stretcher.

The artwork must be able to be disinfected and removed when necessary.

Calling all artists

The CTAQ has put a call out to Quebec artists and plans to put different pieces of art in each of its eight Charlevoix ambulances next month.

"Painting, drawings, photos, there aren't any restrictions — as long as it's calming," said Dubuc, who hopes the pilot project will catch on elsewhere in Quebec.

Aspiring and established artists can submit their work to up until Feb. 1.

The ambulance co-op says it's already received around 60 works of art and photographs and will be choosing its favourites in early February.

If the Artbulance project is successful in the Charlevoix, the CTAQ says it could eventually be expanded to the Saguenay and Quebec City areas.

Charlevoix paramedics Julie Dubuc and Jason Blackburn install a work of art in one of their ambulances. The CTAQ ambulance co-operative is looking for more art submissions to put in their emergency vehicles. (Submitted by Dave Kidd)

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Tanya Beaumont