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Culture and care: creative nurses

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Being a nursing student doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer too

Amidst buzzing students engulfed in music that blasts through precious earphones, a busy coffee shop churning out cup after cup to keep everyone awake, and the bustling metropolis that is London itself, lies a quiet classroom in the Franklin-Watkins building of King’s College. It is here that student nurses can forget the demand of their clinical studies, if only for an hour.

The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College is ranked as the number one nursing school in London. Besides their academic achievements, the school also encourages nursing students to explore the arts through their activity programme “Culture and Care.”

Dr Jessica Howell, a research fellow, and Rachel Renaud, a nurse and postgraduate student, have founded the research group “Rereading Nursing”. The group organises talks and conducts a monthly creative writing workshop at the school.

Recent Asham Award winner and former nurse, Pippa Gough, led the workshop on October 22nd. She began the session with reading an excerpt of her award-winning short story, The Journey to the Brothers’ Farm.

After the reading, Ms Gough informed the attendees that they would indeed be participating in a creative writing activity of their own. Ms Gough jokingly said, “we’ve locked the door already” and any and all protest was thwarted. With no foreseeable way out, the student nurses looked more than a bit scared.

While the feeling of fear was palpable amongst the students, the lone journalist in the room couldn’t have been more pleased to participate. Even though I was supposed to cover the event from a journalistic perspective, I was hoping that I would be able to sneak a bit of creative writing in. After some insistence from Ms Gough and Dr Howell that I participate as well, I easily gave in, eager to hear what the activity would entail.

The participants were asked to answer seven questions on a sheet of paper that was passed around the room, the catch being that the previous answer is always hidden by a fold of the paper. This allows for seven different answers from seven different people, with no idea what the answer to the previous question was. From these seven answers, the students must create their own brief short story.

After 15 minutes of intense and silent writing, the students read their stories to the rest of the room. Some laughed at the ridiculousness of the answers, and expressed their surprise at how the other students were able to compile a story from them; while others were impressed with what their peers were able to write given so little detail and time. The seven questions were effective in creating basic plot lines and character development, but it was up to the students to make the stories their own.

During the 15 minutes, I furiously scribbled a quick two-page story. My answers ended up working very well together. The main character was Lily May, who wears dirty and patched overalls (which was my own answer and not a very creative one at all, albeit overalls do have a certain enigma), carries an engagement ring, meets a stern looking security guard at the National Portrait Gallery, bursts into tears and is inconsolable, and both the guard and Lily May end up getting hurt. The story I produced ended up being terribly depressing (no one wants to hear about Lily May being hit by a taxi), but the stories the students wrote left me wanting more, which is what any successful writer hopes for from their readers.

At the end of the session, there was a sense of camaraderie between the students that was based on more then their shared studies in nursing. And although they leave the classroom to go their separate ways, there is a distinct feeling left in that quiet room, a reassurance that they may be back next month to do it all over again, and I hope they do.


Dakota Smith is an intern with Nursing Times


If this article has tempted you to put pen-to-paper, why not get in touch and try your hand at writing for Student NT? Email to find out more.

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