Literature & Medicine encourages healthcare professionals to connect worlds of science and lived experience and gives them the opportunity to reflect on their professional roles and relationships through reading plays, short stories, poetry, fiction, and personal narratives with colleagues. It is the only national program that engages a cross-section of experienced healthcare professionals with the humanities.
Program participants work in all aspects of patient care and include nurses, physicians, support and allied staff, administrators, clergy, social workers, and therapists in hospitals, home health, hospice, and public health settings.It is an innovative and cost-effective way to improve patient care while contributing to participants’ job satisfaction and often leads to increased respect among colleagues in different disciplines and job descriptions. The program has had a significant effect on the way participants understand their work and their relationships with patients and with each other. In addition to their regular Literature & Medicine program, the Maine Humanities Council has also launched two initiatives within the program; Literature & Medicine in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospitals and Literature & Medicine for Hospice Care Providers.
VA hospitals present their dedicated professionals with one of the most challenging settings in healthcare. Not only are the resources of VA facilities under great strain, but the veterans they care for may also struggle with PTSD, military sexual trauma, severe physical disabilities, substance abuse, chronic illness, homelessness, poverty, and a system that at times is not able to meet their needs. Often the veteran’s frustrations can be directed at those who care for them.
But, the humanities can make a difference in this setting as the council has seen many state humanities councils partnered with the Maine Humanities Council to take this program to their states and VA facilities. Those state councils include: Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Vermont. These veterans are served directly with book groups and related humanities programming.
In 2015, the council partnered with Hospice of Southern Maine to offer a Literature & Medicine style reading and discussion program, which also included a syllabus of readings that address challenges and rewards specific to hospice work.