Nurse’s notes: Arts help healing, promote empathy

Since the time of the Neanderthals, humans have used music, song, dance and art to ward off evil spirits, provide healing energy or to motivate or extend endurance.

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A health care provider’s skills of observation,

inquiry and empathy – skills essential for

compassionate medical care – are developed

by studying literature and art.

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The study of social sciences helps providers understand the intersection of medicine with culture and community, and how these influence a patient’s health choices, how a patient may experience illness and how medicine is practiced in different settings – for example, in rural verses urban areas.


Two of the often referred to titles to read in this area are “A Death of One’s Own” by Gerda Lerner, which explores the experience of being at the end of life, and “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman, which reflects on cultural differences and their impact on health care.