Speaking to Pediatric Doctors and Nurses at MGHfC
At a recent Pediatric Grand Rounds meeting, I spoke about the benefits of journal writing and why I advocated for a writing program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Here is an excerpt from my talk.
In the spring of 2018, at a MassGeneral for Children (MGHfC) Family Advisory Council meeting, I suggested the idea of having a journaling program for adolescents and their families at MGHfC. I am a writer and know of the power of writing to help in the grieving and healing process. Sandy Clancy, PhD, Chair of the Family Advisory Council, and its members liked this idea and the wheels started turning. MGHfC leadership wanted to see research to verify that writing can, in fact, lead toward healing. I shared research with them that describes a study in which one group of patients who had cancer wrote for a minimum of 15 minutes a day while the other group didn’t write. The group that wrote had improved physical and psychological outcomes compared to the group that didn’t.
Different writing studies have also been done about ‘narrative identity’ which attests that the meaning we can make out of adversity can help us to rewrite our narratives and become stronger in the long run. I didn’t need research outcomes to know how true this is!
In January 2019, I initiated the journal program now known as “Journals of Hope.” The goal is to help patients and parents to be able to reduce some of their stress by writing down their thoughts that are trapped inside. They may choose to write detailed accounts of what happens each day, thoughts about how each family member is coping, or do something totally different and sow the seeds for a fiction story as a means of escape from their difficult lives.
Now on Tuesday afternoons, I meet with adolescent patients and family members primarily in their hospital rooms. I discuss that many know that art and music can be therapeutic but that writing can be as well. If they are interested in speaking further, I give them writing prompts to help them start the writing process. I also have a collection of journals which I present as gifts. They select the journal, often chosen by the message on the cover, that means the most to them.
Again, and again, I hear patients and parents say, “Thank you. I like this idea. I’m going to try writing. I really appreciate what you are doing.”
I hope that in some small way, I will be able to relieve some of the overwhelming stress patients and family members bare and give them hope for healing.