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.”
Imagine doctors, nurses, receptionists, trustees, administrators, lab techs, PAs, with books in hand, sitting in a hospital conference room, talking about what they have read and reflecting together on what it means to them — as people, and as professionals engaged in the enterprise of health care. More than 2,000 health care professionals working in hospitals in 25 states have done just this since the program began in 1997, with more participating every year.
Created by the Maine Humanities Council, Literature & Medicine is a hospital-based, scholar-led humanities reading and discussion program for health care professionals that benefits both them and their patients. The program has received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and has been cited as a patient-quality initiative by the Maine Hospital Association.
The program encourages participants to connect the worlds of science and lived experience, giving them the opportunity to reflect on their professional roles and relationships through plays, short stories, poetry, fiction, and personal narratives in a setting where they can share their reflections with colleagues. It has a significant effect on the way participants understand their work, and their relationships with patients and with each other. It is also an innovative and cost-effective way to improve patient care, as observed by a hospital administrator:
“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. This impetus in turn greatly improves the quality of care we provide to our patients and their families.”