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Kirsten Jack

My goal is for students to feel supported and engaged during their learning experiences. I aim to create a caring learning environment in the classroom so that students will develop as caring practitioners in the healthcare setting. With these aims in mind, during my teaching career I have used creative methods such as art, literature and poetry to support my teaching practice. Utilising these methods supports deeper and more meaningful levels of learning and encourages our students to think differently and more critically about significant issues. It also promotes self-reflection and can become a transformatory learning process, supporting the development of self-awareness and self-monitoring. Bolton (1999: 118) suggests, "The writing of poetry profoundly alters the writer because the process faces one with oneself". The process can be therapeutic, as it affords an opportunity to explore and consider our deepest thoughts and emotions which might otherwise be ignored or suppressed.

The need for emotional self-understanding is essential in healthcare practice as it is related to humanistic care provision (McAndrew & Warne, 2010). Recent high profile reports have identified a failure to respond to patients emotional needs in the care setting, and called for an increased focus on compassionate care delivery. Supporting our students' development in this area is complex and difficult. My goal is to understand students' perspectives and find creative ways to facilitate the exploration of difficult emotions. Learning about our emotions can be an uncomfortable experience although ultimately the process is transformative for both learner and teacher. My aim is to inspire a commitment to emotional self-learning and development and I am passionate about this area of practice.

Student feedback and findings from my doctoral study established that student nurses needed greater emotional support during their undergraduate education. Some students found it challenging to find an emotional balance when caring for patients; 'It is hard not to become attached to certain patients', and others had begun to detach from their own feelings; 'You are not necessarily a hard person, but you learn you have to be'. Many students lose their sense of self and are socialised to care less about patients in order to survive the demands of nursing work (Mackintosh, 2006). One of the main aims of Caring Words is the development of a supportive environment where all health care professionals can share their poetry. By writing poems we can gain a greater understanding of ourselves. Reading the work of others can help us to relate to their experiences, and support our understanding that we are not alone when facing the challenges of caring work.

My eleven year teaching career as a Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing has been underpinned by the ethos that unless we understand ourselves, we cannot possibly understand the uniqueness of another person. Creative teaching and learning methods are central to the fulfilment of this philosophy. I hope you will enjoy using Caring Words as much as we have enjoyed developing the idea.


Bolton G (1999) Every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome: The therapeutic power of poetry writing Feminist Review 62, 118-133

Mackintosh C (2006) Caring: The socialisation of pre-registration student nurses: A longitudinal qualitative descriptive study International Journal of Nursing Studies 43, 953-962

McAndrew S and Warne T (2010) Portraying an abstract landscape: Using painting to develop self-awareness and sensitive practice in Warne T and McAndrew S (Eds) Creative Approaches to Health and Social Care Education Palgrave MacMillan