Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® is a nationally award-winning reading and discussion program that brings staff in hospitals or other health care settings together to reflect on the larger mission of medicine through facilitated conversations about literature.
Literature & Medicine, originally created by the Maine Humanities Council, is the only national program that engages a cross section of experienced health care professionals with the humanities.
How it works is a diverse group of participants in a hospital or a similar medical setting gather on site in the evening, share a meal, and then over two or three hours discuss literary accounts of illness, death, and human relationships that help them see the world from the perspective of others. A skilled facilitator helps to steer the discussion of literature to themes and issues participants face daily in the health care setting. Participants are encouraged to connect the worlds of science and lived experience, giving them the opportunity to reflect on their professional roles and relationships and share their reflections with colleagues through plays, short stories, poetry, fiction, and personal narratives.
Discussing shared readings with colleagues and considering what they do, through the lens of literature, deepens participants’ understanding of their work and enriches their relationships with patients and one another. Out of these humanities-rich discussions, participants increase not only their job satisfaction and cultural awareness but also their empathy for patients.
Literature & Medicine is an innovative and cost-effective way to improve patient care while contributing to participants’ job satisfaction. Its success is attributed to the fact that it meets a common need among health care professionals to have a safe place in which to talk about the issues they face every day in their work through a discussion of literature outside of an academic setting.
Now beginning its second decade, Literature & Medicine is offered in 19 states, from Maine to Hawai’i. In 2007, the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities conducted two pilot programs at Kapi‘olani Medical Center and Queen’s Medical Center.
The HCH currently runs Literature & Medicine seminars at Queen’s Medical Center as well as Kahi Mohala Behavioral Health. These discussions are open only to hospital staff.