Birthing the Hospital Poets: Enacting the Kinesthetic and Creative Healing Power of Poetry in Medical Settings
Poets could be described as musicians who use the sounds of language as their notation system. Listeners (and tuned-in readers) of poetry pick up on the poet's sense· of sound through the ways in which the words of the poems reflect the poet’s ideas and concepts as well as the poet's. attitudes toward the subject matter. It is this peculiar power of poetry to reach into the body and heart, as well as the mind, that drove my decision, in 2010, to explore the possibility of bringing it into hospital settings, not so much for patients, as for staff at all levels. Increasingly admitted in medical research is the highly stressful nature of the medical profession at all levels – whether those professionals are physicians, medical administrators, medical specialists, nurses, medical researchers, medical technicians and all ancillary hospital staff. There is concern that more medical professionals are experiencing burn-out, facing more responsibility in decision-making, and increased challenges in dealing with ethical conflicts, and increased workloads. In the US, the Humanism in Medicine movement recognizes that high levels of stress not only negatively affect performance, but also the quality of patient care. It therefore embraces the role of the Arts in having a positive effect on medical personnel and practice. In my talk, I’ll focus on the birth of the Hospital Poets at OSU and contextualize that in a brief account of the history and nature of “poetry therapy” as it has evolved in the US.