Literary inspiration just what the doctor ordered

Reflection, connection and a creative response to what it’s like to be a human in a hospital is the idea behind an innovative collaboration between the University of Auckland and the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB).

First 'Authors off Script' speaker Amy McDaid, a masters of creative writing graduate who will be reading from her novel Fake Baby.

Starting in July, Literature in situ will feature writing with themes of health, sickness and recovery, delivered or displayed at Auckland City Hospital.

Aimed at staff, including students training for clinical roles (medical, nursing, allied health), as well as interested community members, patients and whanau, the series is based on the idea that creative engagement adds another layer of meaning to giving and receiving healthcare.

It will also be a pilot for bringing this kind of engagement into the workplace and a test for future opportunities to connect the humanities and medicine, as well as championing creativity and diversity in the community.

Director of Strategic Relationships for the University’s Faculty of Arts, Associate Professor Linda Tyler, says the ADHB approached the faculty to involve writers as presenters at the monthly one-hour forum for all hospital staff.

“They felt having the author there reading their work would facilitate a discussion of the complex emotional and social issues that arise in caring for patients,” she says.

“The goal of these events is not to solve problems but to explore the human and emotional aspects of the experience of delivering care and the challenges that staff face from day to day.”

They felt having the author there reading their work would facilitate a discussion of the complex emotional and social issues that arise in caring for patients.

Associate Professor Linda Tyler Faculty of Arts

The series has two components: Written Windows involves graphically appealing framed poems and literary excerpts from New Zealand writers put in public spaces around the hospital in the six weeks leading up to National Poetry Day, on Friday 27 August 2021.

This will culminate an in-hospital National Poetry Day event, showcasing the poets featured in the posters alongside other New Zealand poets, who will present readings and discussions.

The second is Authors Off Script, a quarterly series of reader/writer events where published authors who write about, or from inside, healthcare perform a reading of their work, followed by a facilitated conversation with a clinician and an open discussion with the audience.

The first of these features Masters of Creative Writing graduate Amy McDaid reading from her first novel Fake Baby on Thursday 15 July at midday in the A+ room on Level 5 of Auckland City Hospital.

McDaid is a neo-natal intensive care nurse at Starship Children’s Hospital who worked part-time on Fake Baby for nearly four years before it was published by Penguin in 2020. Darkly humorous, it deals with themes of grief and loss and was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2020.

'Fake Baby' by Amy McDaid will feature in the first of the Authors Off Script series.

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Julianne Evans | Media adviser
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