An Under-the-Sea Blacklight Mural is Lessening Anxiety in the Lab!

In the laboratory at the new Mercy Health Physician Partners (MHPP) Norton Shores ambulatory campus, there is a large, surprising and colorful distraction for laboratory patients — an impressive under-the-sea blacklight mural!

Fear of needles and having blood drawn is common among people of all ages and affects approximately twenty percent of the population. Laboratory phlebotomists learn to identify patients who may become anxious, combative or faint.

For pediatric patients who are non-verbal, such as those on the autism spectrum, a lab draw can be a highly upsetting for them and their family members. The blacklight mural is a popular attraction for MHPP Norton Shores patients of all ages, with and without needle apprehensions.

During the design phase of the new Mercy Health ambulatory facility in Norton Shores, Crystal Rosinski, Regional Manager of Planning and Strategy, suggested the idea after learning from Stacie Strong, Manager Laboratory Services, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, how blacklight rooms were making a difference for children at another health care organization.

Randall Higdon’s freehand drawings last spring

Rosinski and Hayley Dexter, Supervisor-Specimen Control, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, researched the painting technique. The Office of Philanthropy connected the design team with South Haven artist Randall Higdon, who further studied how the paint reacts to different levels of blacklights.

Greg Petersen, Senior Project Manager for Mercy Health Muskegon, said, “Randall even corresponded with the paint manufacturer on which nanometer levels of light work best and how to apply the paint that has a watery consistency and is meant to be applied with an airbrush, pen-type sprayer.”

Higdon connected with Monica Watts, Laboratory Assistant and Team Lead, and staff at MHPP Norton Shores, on the mural design. He began drawing the under-the-sea figures freehand in March 2021 and completed it three months later.

Today, when you enter the room, faint pencil lines can be seen on the walls. The mural becomes visible only under blacklights. 

Monica Watts, lab assistant and team lead

The under-the-sea blacklight mural is a welcome surprise for patients. The instant laboratory staff complete their patient’s lab draw, they switch on the blacklights, and the brilliantly colored sea creatures come to life, turning patients’ anxiety and discomfort into amazement and joy.

Watts said, “The room is used often, and it is making a difference. I feel there has been an increase in the number of kids who come to this lab.”

Young patients returning for subsequent visits are excited to see the under-the-sea mural again.

About the Artist: Randall Higdon has artwork on display at Mercy Health. His work can be found in the new medical center and MHPP Norton Shores.

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