Nurses and poetry

Lorraine Ritchie

Nurse as angel of mercyCalling all creative nurses! I am currently compiling a New Zealand anthology of poetry by nurses, which is due to be published on International Nurses’ Day, 12 May 2017. Details of eligibility and how to submit your work can be found below.

“What does nursing have to do with poetry?” it might be asked. Do nurses write poetry? Do they read it? Most lovers of poetry are familiar with doctor poets and writers such as Dannie Abse, William Carlos Williams, and Glenn Colqhoun (to cite a local example). But how many nurse poets do you know of?
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Spirituality and its discontents

Greg Dawes

Epicurus, Nuremberg Chronicle 1493
Epicurus, Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘spirituality’ and health. But as a student of religions I am deeply allergic to this use of the word spirituality. An invitation to contribute to this blog seemed a good chance to explain why.

Let me begin with the way the term is used. A widely cited definition is that given by Christina Pulchalski. ‘Spirituality’, she says,

is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.”

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Mind and body in medicine

John Dunbar

Sprained ankleAll medical professionals will recognise a large number of patients who present with symptoms that are difficult to explain or are out of proportion to the condition from which they appear to suffer. These patients present a serious challenge to a medical system which has become increasingly guided by scientific evidence. Under this western medical model, a patient will present with symptoms which can be investigated with various tests or scans, the investigations will confirm a diagnosis and then appropriate treatment can be instituted. Appropriate treatment is considered to be that which has been proven beneficial by scientific method.

There are many occasions, however, where investigations for quite significant signs and symptoms turn up nothing abnormal. Pain is common but other symptoms including chronic headaches, fatigue and some abdominal complaints fit into this category. Such a scenario often leaves both doctor and patient confused and frustrated. Few doctors have effective means for helping these patients and the patients may seek an answer through alternative practices. The description ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ has been coined.

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The poetry of protein biochemistry

Shereen Asha Murugayah

Interpreter of Maladies, jhumpa LahiriHello. I am a protein biochemist, researching ways to prevent infections in surgical implants. I am also a poet. I have been writing poetry since I was eleven (so, about half is adolescent angst) and have been a laboratory scientist for the last four years.

The first time I experienced the joy of poetry was when a teacher dissected “Monsoon History” by Shirley Lim Geok-Lin. It was about sex—lol. The first time I believed I could write poetry was when I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies. Big game-changer.

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Literature of Crisis

Maxine Alterio

Lives we leave behind, Maxine AlterioOur compulsion to make meaning of traumatic events through the reflective process of writing fiction and creative non-fiction fascinates me as a reader, and as a novelist. The reasons for the latter are multi-faceted and depend on the project. In my second novel, for example, I combined an interest in nurses who served overseas in the First World War with memories of a Southern New Zealand childhood and family stories about my maternal grandmother who ran a private nursing home in Riverton and said ‘Where’s your grit?’ if anyone complained of hardship. She had no time for wimps. Her generation had intimate knowledge of loves and lives lost in the 1914-1918 slaughter.

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Ron Esplin

Ron Esplin and Julie Woods in phone boxes
Ron Esplin and Julie Woods

Braille Art and the Power of Touch

We all know how difficult it is when birthdays and Christmases roll round as each year advances. Your intimate knowledge of your partner may increase, but your knowledge of what he or she already has diminishes the probability of coming up with a present that will show them just how much they really mean to you.

When your partner is blind, the possibilities are even further diminished.

My wife Julie is blind, and she has been for nearly twenty years. Before Christmas 2005 I was looking for something that was really special, something that had to be personal, accessible to her, convey my love, and be a lasting tribute to her.

At this point I should explain that I am an artist, and you could be forgiven for raising your eyebrows at an apparently odd coupling of an artist and a blind woman. How could I gain inspiration and support for my work from her when the work could not be seen?

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A privileged job

Jillian Sullivan 

toiletWhen the job seeker representative asked me what qualifications I had for a job, I told her I had a Masters degree. “Don’t put anything high faluting like that on your job sheet,” she told me. “You’re only going to end up a cleaner.”

I think of that sometimes when I’m scrubbing toilets in the middle of the night in my job as Hospital Aid in a small country hospital.

And if I ever needed a reminder that this is a privileged job, I think of the young woman I was on shift with one night, telling me in the kitchen, “One night my friends hassled me. They said, You have to clean up shit. And they laughed at me. And I said, Yes I do. Because those people need someone to help them. And then they went quiet. And they haven’t hassled me since.”

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