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haiku pharmacology

January 24, 2012

Funny afternoon prepping to teach pharmacology class… I want to use art in class, and have assigned a visual exploration of a drug or drug category. So I’ve been looking online for ideas for in-class activities. Nothing yet from the medical art therapy group, nothing on my searches for “art + pharmacology” or “visual art medicine.”  Some articles support arts in nursing ed, but focus more on literature and museum visits than specific artmaking activities.

And for a while I’ve been looking up “outpost nurse” and “travel nurse” and “Northern nursing” and “Aboriginal nursing” and “community health nurse” and “Nunavut nursing” to find colleagues who must surely be out there, writing their stretched and isolated hearts out. You are out there, aren’t you? Nursey-bloggists? Bloggy-professional-helpers? People working outside their culture zones and processing it online? Helloooooo!

Finally, getting ready to move on, I tried “haiku pharmacology”. Well, who knew? An assortment of health care folks were joined by a haiku challenge — a medical resident cartooning with haiku about their pharm exam, someone who used to suture and now sews quilts, a flight nurse who links tons of info in each blog, a pharmacist who edited a serious-sounding pharm journal and a haiku bloggyjournal thing. That last person wrote tons of haiku about birds and, sadly, none that I could find about drug-drug interactions or polypharmacy in the older adult. But they also wrote about different haiku-ish forms — like one in which haiku leads into prose which merges back into haiku, and another which combines haiku, brush painting and calligraphy… with an actual image I can use to inspire students. Whoopee!

So here’s my ongoing call for help. When I interviewed to teach nursing here, I told the panel that pharmacology would be the subject I was least comfortable teaching. As a nurse, pharmacology is the thing I have to force myself to learn about. I have a friend who runs a herbalism school, who is so into it, from the chemistry to the living plant in its habitat. I admire her work and her passion. Pills and solutions and patches are not exciting to me. But seeing what people do to grapple with ideas through images – especially in groups – that is fun! But I need to shape these classroom experiences so that students don’t need to bumble so much on their way to successful images.*

Help! Poetry writers, do share if you have ideas about other poetry forms which could distill an essence or shape an expanding and contracting coming-to-know about a complex subject that is, in my biased opinion, a bore to read about.

Help! Inuit familiar with traditional songcrafting, do share suggestions about how an Inuk might approach making a song to learn by. Hiphop has been popular among Inuit youth (uh huh, say academic articles and a really hip artsyyouth website) and I don’t think I packed June Jordan’s (& co) Poetry for the People to lead me in that direction…

Thank you, friends! Thank you, colleagues! Thank you, haiku writers and the people who celebrate them!

*What is a successful image? For my purposes, it is something which has helped a student learn and remember things which happen inside the body where they’re hard to see. It is something which communicates those ideas to other learners – including peers, patients, families – and which shows me as well as a multiple choice exam that this student knows something about this subject. If it can also show my colleagues that art in the classrooom doesn’t just look neat, better still! (No pressure, class! You don’t have to take on arts as a marginalised entity, too . But we could talk about bonus marks if you do!)


8 Comments leave one →
  1. bethany permalink
    January 26, 2012 3:02 am

    a “hysterical” haiku for you (in the non-traditional form)

    i get crazy, homicidal, when i forget to take my Midol

    • January 29, 2012 6:49 pm

      Rhyme trumps accuracy in this case. Thanks, Bethany! This is a good example of short and easy-to-remember.

  2. February 1, 2012 11:50 pm

    HI Alison I have tried to leave a comment before with no hopefully this time.A new zealand poet you may like is Glenn Coloquhoun his Poetry Book Playing God is all about being a doctor which he is too…he works in a small rural community up north with Maori people.

    • February 2, 2012 11:08 pm

      Thank you! We are lucky to have the college library and a community library here in Iqaluit – both small and well used. Other Northern communities I have worked in had only the school library, which would in theory be open to everyone, but in practice often was not. Sometimes it would only be open during school hours, so no access for people who worked in the daytime, sometimes it was open some evenings until shut down because people were downloading porn on the school computers, sometimes it was hard to find, or hard to get an answer about.
      When I used to do short term community health nurse gigs, I would buy inspiring magazines and 2nd hand books to leave behind. Here, I depend on recommendations from friends and strangers. Glad you kept trying!
      I will check GC out. I am not familiar with many NZ writers, apart from Keri Hulme – I read The Bone People over and over again. (Thank you, WT, for that gift, years ago.) Kate Grenville’s novels on Australian Aborigine-coloniser relations and her fiction and non-fiction on her own ancestry are amazing – both for the richness of her subject and the gorgeously simple writing.

  3. February 1, 2012 11:52 pm

    hey it I can say I have been enjoying your blog and your writing which is really lovely and interesting!

  4. February 2, 2012 11:17 pm

    Yahoo, indeed! Thanks for your persistence – and your compliment! It’s a strange thing, writing for strangers, and also for people at home who wonder what it’s like here. I know people are reading this, but I don’t know who, or what it is that people might be responding to.

    I’m hoping for conversation to come from this blog, so do tell me/us about yourself, do suggest topics, ask questions, share stories… I am hoping to host guest bloggers along the way, and I’m seeing this blog as a practice run before trying something more official as a resource for people working together in contexts like this.

    So that goes for all of you out there! Let’s talk!

    • February 3, 2012 4:52 am

      What about looking at the the origins of the drug where it came form in its natural foxglove..digitalis.You could illustrate the flower etc or mind map around it of the heart etc..where foxgloves live…get a picture down and ask questions of it. What properties..
      Keri Hulme is a national icon really and I have Kate Greenville’s novel searching for the secret river..which the story of her and how she wrote secret is next on my book list:-) .I can recommend plenty of good NZ literature by Maori Authors if you are interested.

      • February 12, 2012 4:44 pm

        Great ideas around learning drug behaviour, Kathryn. Many of the plants are unfamiliar in this subArctic environment, but there are also variations of many – willow, saxifrage, fireweed… I would love to do a walk on the land with someone who knows the plants which have been used here – orienting pharm in its local herbal roots. I think there will still be snow when this course ends, but maybe for the whole department in late May… What a good biannual tradition that would be – Sept and May-June.

        I think mindmapping has great potential for visual arts exploration – esp. in fibre art (embroidery, quilting…) – and theatre/dance, too, why not?

        Asking questions is something I could really encourage more. I do this with people inquiring into themselves and their different parts (Lucia Capacchione -The Power of Your Other Hand) and as a part of relational nursing practice, but not enough as an educator inquiring into the anatomy-physiology/pathology/treatment bits. I mean, in clinical it’s all about asking questions, but when looking at a drug or body process out of context, asking it about itself as a character would be useful.

        I may offer a dollmaking workshop in reading week, as a way of exploring illness, wellness, symptoms – partly for students studying these things and partly for people inquiring into their own bodies.

        The Secret River blew me away – so good! and Searching for the Secret River, too. It’s some of the best writing from a coloniser perspective which I’ve read. I would love to hear your recommendations of Maori authors.

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