I have spent the last two weeks travelling around the Midlands and the north of England getting lost a lot. Who designed Nottingham for example? Three hours on the ring road looking for a postcode that my sat nav didn’t believe in.
Past the Robin Hood pub, the Robin Hood dry cleaners, the Robin Hood kebab shop. Past Will Scarlet’s curtain emporium, Robin Hood’s tanning booth and back again to Robin Hood’s pub. I knew I was in Nottingham but frankly it looked pretty much like Southampton, only with more of a Robin Hood theme.
Earlier in the week I got lost in Bradford, confused in Leeds and wet in Bury where, despite the newspapers claiming it was August, it was quite clearly November. Apart from getting lost I had a great time and met some lovely people. I drove across the moors, I read a book in various places and I listened to stories just about everywhere. I still hate the M6 obviously, but I do like England. Don’t get me wrong,
‘The Robin Hood pub, the Robin Hood dry cleaners, the Robin Hood kebab shop, - Nottingham looked like Southampton only with more of a Robin Hood theme’
I like other countries too (they’re very nice), but from the Sussex Downs to the Yorkshire Moors we have some real beauty here, and mostly the people are pretty good too. Well, I did come across some shouting loutish people outside Bradford courts but I think they were lawyers so I wasn’t surprised. In the abstract people can be a bit annoying but face to face they tend toward the good.
When in Nottingham I attended the first International Health Humanities Conference. It had a theme of madness and literature, and people from all over the world talked on such diverse things as the use of poetry in establishing and managing a therapeutic relationship to the nature and presentation of madness in Shakespeare. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind, spoke compellingly about the impact of writing a memoir of mental illness and chillingly of the fundamental Christians who lambasted her for doing so. In essence it was an opportunity to borrow perspective and expertise from a broad range of thinkers and doers. At its heart was a rare warmth, openheartedness and intelligence.
I have wondered why this is and think it’s because everyone - a mix of clinicians, writers, philosophers, service users - was forced out of their comfort zone and found themselves explaining their worlds in a different way. And answering questions that perhaps they are not used to. However, I suspect it is also, in part, because humanities tend toward the excavation of human quality or at least a curiosity about the essence of being human rather then a list of what humanness may entail.
I have long believed that for nurse education to flourish it needs to exist in a humanities context. I certainly believe that is the case for mental health nursing but, in truth, I have always thought the idea that nursing is a science was a little crass.
Nursing has a heart and immeasurable complexity. And nurses need more than science to survive and flourish, they need nourishment and nuance. Medical humanities is already reasonably well established, surely health humanities should be too?