Event Title

The Building’ and God’s Hotel: Contrasts in Modern Medicine and Lessons in Empathy

Location

Panel 16: Kearney 314

Start Date

27-10-2012 10:15 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 11:45 AM

Description

The Hull Royal Infirmary, built in 1967, provides the model for the hospital in the British poet Philip Larkin’s poem “The Building,” published in 1974. Laguna Honda Hospital in San Franciscois the inspiration for Victoria Sweet’s account God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, published in 2012. The two works provide a sharp contrast between the ways in which patients are regarded and treated in modern medicine and provide poignant lessons in the importance of empathy in the care of patients.

In “The Building,” Larkin regards the newly built Hull Royal Infirmary as a testimony to the money and structures dedicated to fixing the “something [that] has gone wrong.” Yet, patients and staff are anonymous and alienated, leaving patients and their families fearful, confused, and powerless:

Humans, caught On ground curiously neutral, homes and names Suddenly in abeyance; some are young, Some old, but most at that vague age that claims The end of choice, the last of hope….

By contrast, Sweet describes Laguna Honda Hospital, in God’s Hotel, as an aged facility built as an almshouse that ministered to the humane needs of patients, where light and air were seen as necessary, where compassionate healing, not the quick fix, was the treatment, due in part to the vision of the director of nursing when Sweet arrived as a doctor:

With so little in the way of modernity, Miss Lester nonetheless provided what is necessary for the best care of the patient—a gentle and reliable staff. The peculiar softness underneath her system—the kindness woven like an invisible thread through the decrepit fabric of the place—may or may not have been due to her… (106).

Larkin saw himself as a poet who wrote for the “common” reader, eschewing arcane references plucked from the “myth kitty” and relying, instead, on references and images drawn from the popular culture and more accessible to the general reader. With “The Building” as the central focus, the presentation discusses how the poem conveys the impact of alienation, powerlessness, and lack of empathy on patients, providers, and loved ones.

Insights from God’s Hotel provide an alternate view of health care, with the humanity and individuality of patients and practitioners seen as essential to care.

Research in the discipline of medical humanities shows that literature can engage readers in a powerfully emotional experience resulting in greater understanding and insight into the human condition related to health care. This awareness can lead to behavioral changes and enhanced empathy and mindfulness. The session considers the impact of studying and discussing “The Building” on health care students, drawn from classroom experience (with worksheets available to attendees), and the potential benefits to students of incorporating God’s Hotel into the discussion.

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Oct 27th, 10:15 AM Oct 27th, 11:45 AM

The Building’ and God’s Hotel: Contrasts in Modern Medicine and Lessons in Empathy

Panel 16: Kearney 314

The Hull Royal Infirmary, built in 1967, provides the model for the hospital in the British poet Philip Larkin’s poem “The Building,” published in 1974. Laguna Honda Hospital in San Franciscois the inspiration for Victoria Sweet’s account God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, published in 2012. The two works provide a sharp contrast between the ways in which patients are regarded and treated in modern medicine and provide poignant lessons in the importance of empathy in the care of patients.

In “The Building,” Larkin regards the newly built Hull Royal Infirmary as a testimony to the money and structures dedicated to fixing the “something [that] has gone wrong.” Yet, patients and staff are anonymous and alienated, leaving patients and their families fearful, confused, and powerless:

Humans, caught On ground curiously neutral, homes and names Suddenly in abeyance; some are young, Some old, but most at that vague age that claims The end of choice, the last of hope….

By contrast, Sweet describes Laguna Honda Hospital, in God’s Hotel, as an aged facility built as an almshouse that ministered to the humane needs of patients, where light and air were seen as necessary, where compassionate healing, not the quick fix, was the treatment, due in part to the vision of the director of nursing when Sweet arrived as a doctor:

With so little in the way of modernity, Miss Lester nonetheless provided what is necessary for the best care of the patient—a gentle and reliable staff. The peculiar softness underneath her system—the kindness woven like an invisible thread through the decrepit fabric of the place—may or may not have been due to her… (106).

Larkin saw himself as a poet who wrote for the “common” reader, eschewing arcane references plucked from the “myth kitty” and relying, instead, on references and images drawn from the popular culture and more accessible to the general reader. With “The Building” as the central focus, the presentation discusses how the poem conveys the impact of alienation, powerlessness, and lack of empathy on patients, providers, and loved ones.

Insights from God’s Hotel provide an alternate view of health care, with the humanity and individuality of patients and practitioners seen as essential to care.

Research in the discipline of medical humanities shows that literature can engage readers in a powerfully emotional experience resulting in greater understanding and insight into the human condition related to health care. This awareness can lead to behavioral changes and enhanced empathy and mindfulness. The session considers the impact of studying and discussing “The Building” on health care students, drawn from classroom experience (with worksheets available to attendees), and the potential benefits to students of incorporating God’s Hotel into the discussion.