Judy Rollins PhD, RN

headshot of judy rollins

Home Institution: Georgetown University School of Medicine

Field: Arts in Health and Pediatric Nursing

Current Positions:

My Driving Question

What elements of artwork in health care settings are most effective in enhancing patients’ well-being?

Scholar Project 

Art with Intent: “Purpose” Built or selected Art in Hospitals

As a Nova Institute Scholar, Dr. Rollins explores the impact of contemporary “purpose” built artwork on patients, visitors, and staff in hospitals. Although art is increasingly used in healthcare settings to affect the well-being of patients and to improve the healthcare experience, little is known about what elements of the artwork are most effective in promoting health.

“Purpose built” art is contemporary art designed to promote positive outcomes for health and often is intended to challenge and provoke, in addition to being soothing and comforting. By evaluating the emotional and physiological responses to this artwork in a hospital setting, Dr. Rollins’ research has the potential to transform how art in healthcare settings is designed and used to effectively support optimal health and healing.

Read about and order Dr. Rollins’ recent book, Art With Intent: “Purpose Built” Art in Hospitals.

Learn more about Dr. Rollins’ Being Heard project exploring art and empathy in healing spaces.


Judy Rollins, PhD, RN, brings 30 years of arts and healthcare experience in research, consulting, program development, and education. She is a registered nurse with a BFA in the visual arts, an MS in child development and family studies, a PhD in health and community studies, and holds a Certificate in Evaluation Practice from The Evaluators’ Institute, George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Dr. Rollins has developed programming for adults, children, families, and healthcare staff in hospitals, hospice care, and the community. Among the local arts programs she has developed are Allies in the Arts for Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, ART is the heART for children and families in hospice care, and Studio G, an artists–in-residence program in pediatrics at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

She is adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine with a secondary appointment in the Department Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, and adjunct lecturer, Center for Arts in Medicine University of Florida College of the Arts.

Dr. Rollins is editor for Pediatric Nursing and North America regional editor for the Arts & Health. Her major publications include Meeting Children’s Psychosocial Needs Across the Healthcare Continuum (2005, 2018), Therapeutic Activities for Children and Teens Coping with Health Issues (2011), and ‘Purpose-built’ Art in Hospitals: Art with Intent (2021).

In addition to book of the year awards from the American Journal of Nursing and Pediatric Nursing, Dr. Rollins is the recipient of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care Research Award, Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare Partnership to Promote Arts and Healing Award, Society for Arts in Healthcare Distinguished Fellow Award, and Georgetown University Department of Pediatrics’ Mary M. Hoobler Distinguished Service Award.

She currently serves as an Ambassador for the National Organization for Arts in Health.

Education and Training
  • PhD, DeMontfort University
  • MS, Oklahoma State University 
  • BFA, University of Tulsa 
  • RN, Washington Hospital Center School of Nursing
Selected Honors
  • Mary M. Hoobler Distinguished Service Award, Georgetown University Department of Pediatrics, April, 2015 
  • The Editor’s Choice 2012 Award for The state of the arts in healthcare in the United States, Arts in Health: An International Journal of Research, Policy, and Practice, 2009.
  • American Journal of Nursing 2011 Book of the Year Award for Therapeutic Activities for Children and Teens Coping with Health Issues, John Wiley & Sons
  • Distinguished Fellow, Society for the Arts in Healthcare, April 2011
  • Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, induction September 2007
  • Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership Award, November 2006
  • National Science Foundation Scholarship, June 2004
  • Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare Award, 2002
  • International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care/Bristol-Myers Squibb Clinical Nursing
  • Practice Research Award, July, 2000, Oslo, Norway
  • Pediatric Nursing 1991 Book of the Year Award for Comprehensive Child and Family Nursing Skills, Mosby Year Book
  • American Journal of Nursing 1991 Book of the Year Award for Comprehensive Child and Family Nursing Skills, Mosby Year Book
Selected Publications



Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.