Since February, Paul Iversen has been putting smiles on patients’ faces like few people ever could.
Iversen, of West Haven, is a volunteer artist at Milford Hospital who leaves each patient he visits with a watercolor painting that inspires healing, hope and contentment. In his eight months at the hospital, he has crafted nearly 300 pictures, including two wall murals in the hospitals emergency department.
However, the truly unique aspect of Iversen’s work is his motivation and inspiration to help others in need. He learned how to paint while serving in the Army in 1965 and has not stopped since. He has taught at art schools and even conducts private lessons. However, painting for patients provides a true sense of fulfillment and joy to him. “I tell them, this is a gift from me to you, a get well gift, if you will.”
Iversen knows first hand the difficult moments that a hospitalized patient can experience. In 1992, he underwent major heart surgery, followed by a stroke. Then, only a few years later, he had double knee replacement at Milford Hospital. “I’ve been there and know how they are feeling,” said Iversen. “I just hope I can offer them a little something that brings comfort or happiness.”
Hospital officials rave about him.
“Paul has the unique ability to cheer up our patients,” said Karen Kipfer, director of community relations. “The patients are left with a 4” x 6” watercolor, typically a landscape, seascape or floral scene, which they take home as a gift.”
According to Kipfer, who also heads the volunteer department, Iversen does not just leave them with a work of art “during his visits, Paul connects with them on a personal level. He engages in friendly conversation, shares personal experiences and even helps address and redirect their concerns when needed. All while creating each individual masterpiece.
“Our patients truly appreciate the extra special, personal touch he brings to the hospital and to them,” Kipfer added.
Iversen can be found in the hospital one or two mornings each week. As he walks the hallway of each of the hospital’s patient care units, he is looking for those patients who might be in need of a “pick-me-up.”
The art sits at their bedside to cheer them up.
For others, particularly the new moms at the hospital, Iversen’s work is a keepsake to be framed when they are discharged. “Patients have cried when I have given them a painting, but I’m just here to cheer them up,” he said.
His work has brought praise and thanks from the patients and their families.
“The response has been fantastic,” said Kipfer. “Several patients have sent personal notes to Paul. Others have written extremely favorable comments about his work on their Patient Satisfaction surveys.”
In addition to the paintings going home with the patients, Iversen has created a lasting impression in the Emergency Department. After being approached by the nursing staff to brighten up two of their treatment rooms, Iversen designed and painted wall murals. The seascape provides a peaceful diversion for patients who may be admitted to the emergency department for an extended period of time.
When Iversen is not volunteering his time, he can be found engaging in some of his other favorite hobbies — kayaking along Connecticut’s rivers or golfing at some of the areas courses.
“We are so appreciative of Paul,” Kipfer said. “He’s very talented and the hospital and our patients are so fortunate that he’s chosen to share his time and talent with us”.
Milford Hospital is a non-profit community hospital serving more than 80,000 patients from Greater New Haven and Fairfield counties. In 2012, the hospital opened its Advanced Wound Care Center providing advanced treatment options, including hyperbaric medicine, to Connecticut residents.
For more information about the hospital or volunteering, visit milfordhospital.org.