Healing Power of Poetry & The Arts


Art by Carol Rickey

Introduction by Joe Babaian. Blog by Britta Bloomquist, Pamela Ressler MS, RN, and Brian Stork, MD

Starting 2022, Colin and I are so excited for what comes next to healthcare and #hcldr this year. So much positive energy wrapped up in hope plus the ongoing very real ongoing pandemic saga, we might wonder where to turn next.

This is one of my favorite blogs by some of my favorite people. I’m bringing it back today to help us begin to breathe again, open ourselves to the sun, and remember that you are never alone with a community of friends.

Joe Babaian


This week on #hcldr we have three very special guest authors – Britta Bloomquist, Pam Ressler, and Brian Stork. They are focusing on the power of poetry and the arts to heal. It’s truly a very personal journey for each of them. Britta has seen up close the power of writing to be healing as she has dealt with trauma and chronic illness. In addition to being an e-patient, she loves journaling and blogging as a creative outlet. Pam has long worked with connection, mindfulness and resilience not only professionally but from a lifetime of experience. She shares her haiku and photos at StressResources.com/blog. Our friend Brian spends his time as a physician practicing general urology and studying Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) on physician mental health and behavior. His passion is also reflected in that he is a children’s book author and beekeeper.


Our healthcare system is based on disconnection. For patients, they are swept into this disconnected world with a new or changing diagnosis, an unfamiliar landscape that is disparate from the life they have lived. For clinicians, they are thrust into a system that focuses on fixing body parts that have failed, and a sense of disconnection from the suffering that they observe daily. Current healthcare is grounded in fixing but not adept at healing. The chasm of disconnection further widens when we separate ourselves from the experience of simply being human.

Physician and poet, Rafael Campo states, “I think of poetry as a kind of primary care. It’s so based on the experience of community, of joining together”. Brian Stork (physician) @StorkBrian, Pam Ressler (nurse researcher) @pamressler, and Britta Bloomquist (e-patient) @britta34 believe that micro-poetry in the form of haiku may serve to help foster connection and understanding in healthcare.

Why haiku? Haiku are poems structured in form and simplicity, accessible to many ages and literacy levels. They invite observation, thoughts and emotions that are grounded in the present. Haiku are micro poems that can be said in one breath yet profoundly express many aspects of the human experience. They invite connection around ambiguity.

Another of Carol Rickey’s works via Brian Stork is below. Carol used art to work through her own pain. Sadly, Carol is no longer with us, and you should read more about this special person in this post by Brian, Remembering Carol Rickey – Watercolors Tell the Story.


Carol Rickey

Let’s talk about the arts as healing tools as we join the extended #hcldr family for this special chat hosted by Pam, Brian, and Britta!

Please join us on Tuesday, Jan 18th at 8:30pm ET for the weekly #hcldr tweetchat where we will be discussing the healing power of arts and poetry:

• T1: Do you read or write poetry? From the perspective of healing, what poets/poems have you found to be meaningful and memorable?

• T2: Dr Rafael Campo thinks of poetry as a kind of primary care. How is this true? Can you share some examples?

• T3: How have you integrated the arts into your own health and work? Do you recommend some type of reflective practice to others?

• T4: How have the arts helped you to make sense of or changed your experience with illness?

Image Credit: Brian Stork, works by Carol Rickey

About Our Guest Authors:

Britta Bloomquist @britta34 is an ePatient from Duluth, Minnesota. She holds a B.S. in mass communications with a minor in health. She has lived with health issues for over 20 years, including, but not limited to, Ankylosing Spondylitis and mental health ailments. Britta has found writing to be healing as she has struggled with major traumas in her life and chronic illness. She enjoys journaling and blogging.

Pamela Ressler, MS, RN @pamressler is an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Pain, Research, Education and Policy Program and the founder of Stress Resources. Her work with connection, mindfulness and resilience informs her research and her life. Her haiku and photos can be found at StressResources.com/blog

Brian Stork, MD @storkbrian is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan. His current area of research interests are the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) on physician mental health and behavior. He is also a children’s book author and beekeeper. His physician and patient blogs can be found at www.drbrianstork.com

Resources to learn more:

Stress Resources’ Haiku Challenge https://www.stressresources.com/blog #haikuchallenge22

Haiku and Healing: An Empirical Study of Poetry Writing as Therapeutic and Creative Intervention. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0276237415569981?journalCode=arta#abstract

Inverse, Harvard doctor Rafael Campo discovers a form of survival (Boston Globe) https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/12/30/obliged-listen-how-poetry-elevates-doctor-work/kitczqlG9xsRAF9yJZuITI/story.html

Surrounded by Pain, Doctors Turn to Writing and Poetry to Cope with Loss (Stat News) https://www.statnews.com/2016/02/26/doctors-writing-poetry/

Writing Poetry: A Way of Knowing Nursing https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1998.00848.x

Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine (Haiku) http://pulsevoices.org/index.php/haiku

American Journal of Nursing: What Do Haiku Have to do with Nursing? https://ajnoffthecharts.com/what-do-haiku-have-to-do-with-nursing/

Attempting to say something without saying it (BMJ) https://mh.bmj.com/content/29/1/39

Rx Poetry (Harvard Medical School podcast with Dr Rafael Campo) https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/multimedia/rx-poetry

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