Healing

Literature & Medicine

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® is a national award-winning reading and discussion program for health care professionals that, as one participant writes, “renews the heart and soul of health care.” Literature & Medicine discussions have helped health care professionals across the country improve their communication and interpersonal skills while increasing their cultural awareness, empathy for patients, and job satisfaction.

Why is Literature & Medicine important in New Jersey?

An innovative and cost-effective way to improve patient care, one hospital administrator summed up Literature & Medicine’s impact: “The reflection and conversation that takes place in the process greatly enhances the level of cooperation, collaboration, and esprit de corps within our hospital family and our community at large. The impetus in turn greatly improves the quality of care we provide to our patients and their families.”

As our state’s population becomes increasingly diverse, healthcare workers can no longer rely on what they know from their own lives to understand their patients, who may be of a different religious, socio-economic or cultural background. Literature gives healthcare workers the opportunity to see through another person’s eyes while the group discussion format helps break down the hierarchies among doctors, nurses and administrative staff in the hospital that can impede care.

By helping healthcare workers at all levels better understand their patients and each other, Literature & Medicine improves the quality of healthcare in New Jersey. Read about Literature & Medicine in New Jersey in the Star-Ledger.

Since the program’s inception in New Jersey in 2005, eights hospitals have taken part in Literature & Medicine, with the VA hospital joining in 2010 as part of a federally funded grant. NJCH is delighted to welcome Morristown Medical Center to the Literature & Medicine family this year. The complete list of hospitals is below, with those who will be participating in 2013 in bold:

  • AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center—Atlantic City
  • The Cancer Institute of New Jersey—New Brunswick
  • Cooper University Hospital—Camden
  • Morristown Medical Center—Morristown
  • Mountainside Hospital—Montclair
  • Overlook Hospital—Summit
  • UMDNJ-NJMS (Creative Arts Healthcare)—Newark
  • VA New Jersey Health Care System—Lyons/East Orange

Outcomes

Evaluations show uniformly positive results for all five goals of the program: increased empathy for patients, greater cultural awareness, improved interpersonal relations, better communication and more job satisfaction. One participant remarked that Literature & Medicine has, “broadened my horizons to appreciate all the emotions/feelings involved in patient care and opened my eyes to other peoples’ points of view.”

Participants in New Jersey in 2008 reported a significant increase in:

Empathy for patients
Cultural awareness
Job satisfaction
Interpersonal relations
Communication

For more information on this program and how your hospital or health care organization participate, please contact NJCH at 888-394-6524 or [email protected]

Poetry Heals—Literature & Medicine Celebrates National Poetry Month

Articles, stories, books—
every day I read how
people heal themselves.

 from “Body of Diminishing Motion”
by Joan Seliger Sidney

1st year internal medicine resident at Cooper University Hospital Poetry Heals program

Hospitals and healthcare facilities have the opportunity to bring a trained poet to facilitate a workshop for healthcare worker for FREE thanks to the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and CavanKerry Press.

Poetry has been shown to be an important tool for healing—both for caregivers and for patients. Poetry Heals workshops use poetry to emphasize three skills that are essential for healthcare workers: Deep Listening, Deep Speaking, and Deep Thinking all of which are critical for improving communication between healthcare workers and patients and among staff. Poetry also aids in developing empathy for patients and helps reduce burnout.

Here are results from our inaugural Poetry Heals program in 2012:

85% of attendees said they would “encourage the hospital to provide more programs like this, which connect poetry/literature with healthcare.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UMDNJ healthcare staff pose with poetry.

Interested in applying for next year? Please contact [email protected]

Online Chapbook of Poems about Healing

Download a chapbook of healing poems, thanks to CavanKerry Press! The poems included in the chapbook are listed below and deal directly with issues of healing, medicine, caregiving and illness.

Download the Online Chapbook here.

From The Disheveled Bed
b
y Andrea Carter Brown

From Elegy for the Floater
by Teresa Carson

From Against Which
by Ross Gay

From The Red Canoe
by Joan Cusack Handler

From Life With Sam
by Elizabeth Hall Hutner

From Little Boy Blue
by Gray Jacobik

From Surviving Has Made Me Crazy
by Mark Nepo

From Body of Diminishing Motion
by Joan Seliger Sidney

From We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

From Fun Being Me
by Jack Wiler

If you enjoyed these poems, please let us know!

These events are being offered as part of Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care ® a national award-winning reading and discussion program for health care professionals that, as one participant writes, “renews the heart and soul of health care.” Literature & Medicine discussions have helped health care professionals across the country improve their communication and interpersonal skills while increasing their cultural awareness, empathy for patients, and job satisfaction.

For more information on this program and how your hospital or health care organization participate, please contact NJCH at 888-394-6524 or [email protected]

Related Humanities Connection Episodes:

Poetry Heals—Literature & Medicine Celebrates National Poetry Month

An Interview with Joan Cusack Handler, editor, Teresa Carson, poet, and Mary Rizzo, NJCH.

Poetry Heals—Literature & Medicine Celebrates National Poetry Month

An Interview with Joan Cusack Handler, Teresa Carson, and Mary Rizzo

Aired March 25, 2012

With its evocative imagery and artistic language, poetry can be a visceral way to understand another person’s experiences, to emotionally connect with them, and see through their eyes. Healthcare workers are increasingly turning to literature, including poetry, in their practice, to improve their patient care and alleviate the stress of their jobs.

In this episode, Joan Cusack Handler, editor, founder and publisher of CavanKerry Press, a New Jersey publisher specializing in poetry; Teresa Carson, a poet and development director for CavanKerry; and, Mary Rizzo, NJCH Associate Director and adminstrator of the Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care program, discuss the power of poetry, especially as a tool for healing. Carson reads three poems, written to help her deal with her mentally ill brother’s suicide. These poems, and more than two dozen others, are available at Poetry Heals—Literature & Medicine Celebrates National Poetry Month.

What does poetry have to do with medicine? What transforms a poem about a personal experience from catharsis to art? In this clip, Joan Cusack Handler and Teresa Carson talk about the artistic process and poetry. Mary Rizzo connects literature with medicine, explaining NJCH’s program Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care, which gives healthcare workers the opportunity to participate in facilitated reading discussions.

In 1986, Teresa Carson’s brother, who had suffered with mental illness for much of his life, committed suicide by drowning. To deal with her pain, she wrote a series of poems about her brother’s illness and death, including “The Barking Boy,” which confronts the reader with the marginalization of the mental ill and her own shame.

In this clip, Carson and Handler collaboratively read a poem based on the autopsy report for Carson’s brother. The parallel lines of the poem, contrast the clinical language of the medical examiner with the poetic words of the sister, who is remembering her brother’s life. The juxtaposition demonstrates the power of language in shaping how we understand an experience.

The mission of CavanKerry Press is “lives brought to life.” As Handler explains in this clip, this means that CavanKerry publishes authors who reveal the difficult aspects of life with skill and honesty, as demonstrated in Carson’s poem “Weights and Measures,” which she reads. Carson discusses how her poetry has affected readers, especially healthcare workers.

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