It would be impossible to count the times that a literary work enters a conversation of an educated person in reference to another's comment about life. So often the one can refer the other to this poem, or novel, or story as a comfort or an explanation for problems and questions. There is no solace so great as a book, at that moment of wonder.
My mom just retired from 40 years of working as an RN at the same hospital. She is an avid reader of literature. For her literature is an escape from the often very difficult life and death situations she dealt with at work.
For someone who is currently in nursing school, I would suggest that well-written literature can help a nursing student become more articulate, give them a topic for conversations with future patients (to take their minds off procedures or pain), and can broaden their exposure to various cultures and traditions, many of which they will probably encounter in the very multicultural health field that now exists.
On many levels, this is a challenging question. I think that the idea of literature in nursing is useful in its approach of expanding the scope of one's sense of compassion. The overriding element which seems to be present in all literature is the inclusion of sadness and struggle. This is something that is intrinsic to a nursing profession which strives to overcome both in the lives of their patients. Health care professionals can benefit from reading literature in that it might allow them to be abler to articulate another tool in their struggle to overcome individual pain and suffering. Seeing how writers and their works addresses human agony and struggle might give health care professionals a mental or intellectual tool to articulate this to their patients or to one another.
Most people that study English literature then move on to law school, medicine, or even engineering, stare that the abstractness and interpretativeness that literature requires gives them advantages when they start to study concrete subjects that are direct and straightforward. Once you can analyze poetry, any medical diagnose or supreme court ruling only becomes easier to understand.
Literature takes an in depth look at the human experience and leads to the understanding of the universal qualities of the human condition. It offers us the chance to step out of our own shoes and see life from someone else's perspective. It shows both how we are unique, and yet, how we all share common human experiences. Reading literature takes us out of our narrow daily groove, where we can find new and different ways to relate, problem solve, and innovate in relationships with our fellow human beings.
In learning the art of true healing, nurses will be most successful in caring for their patients when they see them as a whole person, not just as a patient with a specific illness or set of symptoms.
Perhaps the most important way literature enhances the study of nursing is through opening our eyes, hearts and minds to the non-technical aspects of patient care, or care of not just the human body but the human spirit.
The key to healing of the whole person is for the patient to feel heard, acknowledged and understood. When a patient is able to tell their story to someone who is really listening, amazing things can happen. Reading stories of caregivers or accounts of patients will offer many lessons that are too numerous to count! Moreover, reading all kinds of literature offers us an avenue to understanding of our fellow human beings, and in turn makes us better informed, more intelligent listeners, and better caregivers.