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Ohio Humanities funds narrative medicine research at Akron Children’s Hospital

01-19-2024 (Akron, Ohio )

Akron Children’s received a $20,000 Ignite Grant from Ohio Humanities for the second phase of a study on the use of narrative medicine to help families who have a child in the hospital’s pediatric critical care unit (PICU).

Narrative medicine uses the literary arts to help patients, families, and providers tell and listen to stories. Parents will be invited to participate individually or in group settings to read poetry and literature, reflect, write, and share their work.

“We will use pre and post surveys to learn more about how narrative medicine can help with loneliness and help parents make sense of their PICU experiences,” said Nicole Robinson, the lead author. “A quarter of a million children and teens are hospitalized in North American PICUs annually, and we know 23 percent of parents report having post traumatic symptoms and another 21 percent report having moderate to severe anxiety in the months after their child’s discharge.”

Building on past successful narrative medicine projects, Robinson believes the humanities have the power to help parents, especially those who care for children with complex medical needs who may be experiencing high levels of isolation and/or stress related to their care giving.

“Narrative medicine provides a unique space for the humanities and health care to interact,” said Ohio Humanities Executive Director Rebecca Brown Asmo. “We are proud to support the innovative efforts at Akron Children’s to help parents and caregivers feel more connected to the world around them.”

Akron Children’s Narrative Medicine Program began in 2019 as part of the hospital’s Haslinger Family Pediatric Palliative Care Center and the Emily Cooper Welty Expressive Therapy Center. It is only one of three hospital-based narrative medicine programs in the country, and Robinson is the only full-time narrative medicine practitioner employed at a children’s hospital.  

Sarah Friebert, MD, the director of the hospital’s program, notes: “With philanthropic and community support, we are blessed to be able to include narrative medicine as a core part of our expressive therapies. We believe this grant will help spread the word about its foundational importance in holistic medical care, leading to improved access for children and families everywhere."

“This study is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this study do not necessarily represent those of Ohio Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

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