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J Palliat Med. 2005 Apr;8(2):382-9.

Healing the healer: poetry in palliative care.

Author information

1
Department of Preventive Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8-36, USA. jcoulehan@notes.cc.sunysb.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Poetry plays an age-old role in the art of healing. Although medicine today seems distant from the world of poetic expression, there are surprising commonalities between the two.

OBJECTIVES:

In this essay we reflect on three aspects of healing that are fostered by poetry.

OBSERVATIONS:

Practicing medicine with too many facts and not enough poetry leads to dissatisfaction, disappointment, and impaired healing, especially in the care of the terminally ill. Likewise, poetry deficiency cuts off an important avenue for physician self-awareness and reflectivity. Alternatively, three aspects of healing are fostered by poetry: the power of the word to heal (and also harm); the skill of "negative capability" that enhances physician effectiveness; and empathic connection, or compassionate presence, a relationship that heals without words.

CONCLUSION:

Reading and writing poetry can help physicians, especially those who care for dying patients, become more reflective, creative, and compassionate practitioners.

PMID:
15890049
DOI:
10.1089/jpm.2005.8.382
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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