Saturday, November 3, 2007

This presentation is part of : Diverse Partnership in Healthcare
Healing Art as Common Ground
Veneta Masson, MA, RN, Writer and Publisher, Sage Femme Press, Washington, DC, USA
Learning Objective #1: explain the contribution of the arts and humanities to health sciences education, practice, transdisciplinary collaboration and scholarly investigation.
Learning Objective #2: list literary and organizational resources for creating or participating in programs that integrate the humanities into health care.

Everything is held together with stories…That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.

            Barry Lopez

Nurses, physicians, medical ethicists, social scientists, journalists and politicians are only some of the groups who recognize the power of stories.  Personal stories offer fresh perspective on health and illness, opportunities for conversation and compassion across professional boundaries, and fodder for scientific investigation or political action. 

Clinical practice is based on eliciting and listening to patient histories, writing them into charts, and taking action based on an analysis of the contents.  Education in the health sciences is most effective when introduced or highlighted with anecdotes, case studies or process recordings.  Collaboration among colleagues often begins with the sentence, “I once had a patient like that—and the darnedest thing happened…”

Schools and health care institutions are getting in touch with this truth and expanding their interest in what is being called medical humanities.  A better term might be healing art.  There are courses and lectures on literature and medicine.  There are reading and discussion groups in hospitals that bring health workers and administrators of all sorts together.  Professional journals and websites allocate space to poetry and story.

When we share our own stories informally, we restore zest, build community and pass on the valuable lessons we’ve learned.  When we discuss a literary work in a transdisciplinary setting, we explore common ground, forge partnerships and enlarge our contributions to health care.   Resources for such programs abound.