Illness, Medicine, and Literature: The Significance of Storytelling in Healthcare Settings

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Reem EL Khalili/ NeMLA
contact email: 

We tend to look at medicine and the arts & humanities as two separate entities unaware that they are similar. Medicine is affiliated with rationality while the arts & humanities are affiliated with emotions. As a result, a number of gaps exist between Medicine and Literature that need to be closed. In this session, I would like to expand upon the practice of storytelling in Healthcare settings and the ways in which it allows for a more patient-centered approach. I would also like to examine our roles as literature, language, and creative writing scholars in bridging the gaps between the two disciplines, attempting to improve the mental health of healthcare professionals through the act of writing, and contributing to a better healthcare system. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the fragile state of the world and that of the mental health of healthcare workers, it is important to talk about the important role that storytelling plays on both the short and long term. For storytelling can be rendered as a coping mechanism for the health workers who are at the front-lines in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic as they witness suffering and death on daily basis -which is both emotionally and physically draining. Hence, in these challenging times, it is important to explore the role that writing plays in helping doctors come to terms with the limitations of what they can do to save their patients, how they approach issues like death and mortality, and how they deal with their own feelings of guilt.


How can we, as literature, language, and creative writing scholars, bridge the gaps that exist between medicine and literature? How does storytelling contribute to patient-centered approaches in healthcare and help doctors deal with their own feelings of guilt and mortality?