Spend time talking with nurses and you’re likely to hear some amazing stories. They’ll tell you about their patients and their patients’ families, about wounds and pain and organ failure, about premature birth and sudden death. They’ll also tell you about surgeons, psychiatrists, residents, attending physicians, social workers, and hospital administrators. And they’ll tell you about their own kids and parents and siblings and in-laws. Sometimes they’ll even tell you about other nurses. But most of the time they don’t tell you all that much about themselves—or if they do, it’s almost always in terms of the demands of their jobs and the needs of the other people in their lives. Nurses’ stories are filled with other people, their suffering, and their caregiving. Ask them how they handle all that and they’ll tell you they have to put their feelings on the back burner just to get through the day.
Two years ago, poet and health care journalist Joy Jacobson and I started a program in Narrative Writing for Health Care Professionals at the Hunter College Center for Health, Media & Policy (CHMP). We teach writing to undergraduate and graduate nursing students at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing and offer workshops in writing reflective narratives to nurses who work in hospitals. We use creative means to engage our students in reading and writing, with the goal of giving nurses a new appreciation for their own voices and stories.
As part of this program, we are offering a writing conference, “Telling Stories, Discovering Voice: A Writing Weekend for Nurses,” to be held Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22. As Joy wrote in a post about the workshop on the CHMP blog: “The weekend will be open to nurses, nursing faculty, nurse researchers, and nursing students, giving them an opportunity to explore the power of narrative writing. We’ll write, read aloud, and create what we hope will be an ongoing community of new and experienced writers.”
We’re also very lucky to have Karen Roush, MS, RN, as a keynote speaker. Karen has extensive experience as a writer, teacher, and nurse and has a long list of published books, scholarly articles, essays, and poems to her credit. She is the founder of the Scholar’s Voice and the clinical managing editor of the American Journal of Nursing.
If you know any nurses who love to write, want to write, wish they could write, or plan to get around to writing someday, please tell them to check out the CHMP blog for more information on the writing weekend, registration, discount hotel accommodations, and the continuing education credits we’re offering. Some scholarships and discounts are available. We expect to hear some amazing stories!
Let me leave you with a thought from Joy: “Poetry is an antidote to medical jargon. Bringing a poem into a hospital and reading it with busy nurse managers can help to jumpstart their writing. Jargon is deadly.”
Ed note: Jim Stubenrauch is a longtime editor at the American Journal of Nursing. He teaches writing to nursing students at the Hunter–Bellevue School of Nursing and, as a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media, & Policy conducts workshops in writing reflective narratives to nurses in hospital settings. Jim earned is MFA at Columbia University.