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

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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.”

About Akron Children’s
Akron Children’s is an independent, nonprofit pediatric health care system that has been caring for children in northeast Ohio since 1890. With two hospital campuses, six regional health centers and more than 50 primary and specialty care locations throughout Ohio, we are making it easier for today’s busy families to find the high-quality care they need. We also operate neonatal and pediatric units in the hospitals of our regional health care partners. In 2022, our health care system provided more than 1.3 million patient encounters. Every year, our Akron Children’s Home Care nurses provide thousands of in-home visits, and our School-Based Health Center nurses manage clinic visits for students from preschool through high school. With our Quick Care Online virtual visits and Akron Children’s Anywhere app, we are here for families whenever and wherever they need us. Learn more at akronchildrens.org.

Holly Pupino