Reconnecting the art and the science: the use of humanities in nurse Education Abstract: Nurse education attempts to prepare neophyte nurses to work in a variety of healthcare settings, using both art and science as a basis for their practice. In nurse education science often dominates and teaching and learning strategies reflect this, however many of the attributes of the good nurse, such as empathy, insight and an understanding of what it means to be human require different educational approaches to facilitate learning and development.
Emily Jackson, a senior lecturer and part time PhD student started by presenting some moving and significant experiences. She described how she came to better understand the grieving process, not through knowing the scientifically reported stages of grieving but by reading a novel written through the eyes of a grieving widow.
This had lead Emily to consider that within nurse education the art and the science could be combined to result in a more effective learning experience. Using the humanities, that is, popular culture, modern fiction, poetry and music could help us understand our experiences and learn more effectively.
Emily carried out a literature review to identify where this approach had previously been adopted or studied and identified a huge amount of evidence suggesting that using the humanities in nurse education can enhance empathy and insight, can develop observational and assessment skills, facilitate personal growth and development and increase the levels of reflexivity.
Emily illustrated her findings very powerfully by offering examples from her own teaching practice. How a clip from the American hospital drama “ER” demonstrating patient aggression lead to discussions about the trauma of restraining patients, the ethical and moral issues and the guidance within the Code of Conduct.
Another powerful example was where Emily had used “Iris”, a film about an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer in her final ears of her life. Emily compared the impact of reading a text book chapter on Alzheimer’s disease with seeing the disease portrayed in the film. It was evident that the students’ learning was greatly enhanced by the latter, in this example particularly with the development of empathy.
Thinking about the issues related to the art science debate has led Emily to question what nursing actually is. How do we connect the personal experiences and traits that someone brings with them into nurse education with the technical and professional knowledge that they must also then gain to become safe and effective nurses? It there really an art and a science to nursing? Is there a gap between the two? Or is this perspective merely misleading? Is it possible to connect the personal and the professional, the art and the science and facilitate a holistic learning experience? Can humanities be the vehicle by which we achieve this?