Department of Medicine

University of Pittsburgh

GIM News
Donna L. Bishop, Editor

Next issue:
December 2009

Submission deadline:
November 6, 2009


Consortium Ethics Program Holds 20th Annual Retreat

The Consortium Ethics Program (CEP) began its 20th year of providing health care ethics education to frontline nurses, physicians, social workers, and others. To mark the occasion, CEP director Rosa Lynn Pinkus, PhD, along with other CEP members, held an annual weekend retreat, "Medical Ethics and the Humanities." The retreat took place in May 2009 at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

CEP representatives from member institutions throughout western Pennsylvania attended the intimate retreat, which included the following educational seminars: "The Power of Story," Margaret Kimmel, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; "Should Clinicians Incorporate Spirituality into Their Practices?" and "The Nature of Suffering/Goals of Palliative Care," Randy Hebert, MD, MPH, West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) Forbes Hospice; "In Any Language, 'No' Can Really Mean 'No': A Look at Informed Refusal" and "It's Only Natural to Grieve, but Is It Professional?" Denise Stahl, MSN, ACHPN, Department of Veterans Affairs; "Embodied Poetry Writing Workshop," Cortney Davis, RN, MA, ANP, Sacred Heart University; and "Narrative Contribution to Medical Communication," Janet Grover, DHCE, Mount Aloysius College.

In addition, the CEP hosted Lift-Breathe-Carry, a spoken-word dance performance based on the poetry of Jeanne Bryner, RN, from her book Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated, and Remembered. Performed by Verb Ballets of Cleveland, Ohio, the performance showcased the experiences of ten stellar nurses whose lives spanned three centuries. They included Helen Albert, the first African American registered nurse hired in Warren, Ohio; Rebecca Anderson, rescue nurse and victim of the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995; and Lynda Arnold, who tested HIV-positive after receiving a needle stick from an infected patient when she was less than one year on the job.

Readings by Cortney Davis, RN, MA, ANP, from her latest book, The Heart's Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing, and an audience talk-back session moderated by Martin Kohn, PhD, from Hiram College Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities, were also included in the special evening.

"Having the opportunity to meet and learn from nurse-authors Jeanne Bryner and Cortney Davis and to discuss aspects of the Oklahoma City bombing aftermath with Doris Needham and Hilary Johnson, who came to the performance to honor their daughter and mother, Rebecca Anderson, I once again appreciate how important humanities perspectives are to understand the 'human condition' and ethics," said Dr. Pinkus.

"While the analytical aspects of moral reasoning and the legal frames that shape our ethical responses are key to the CEP educational offerings, it is in the humanities year that these both come together," Dr. Pinkus added. "The push for creating rubrics to measure the effectiveness of ethics education is essential to objectively evaluate what we do; and watching a performance such as Lift-Breathe-Carry reinforces the 'immeasurable' essence of what the art of nursing entails and what an 'ethical' healthcare professional is."

Lift-Breathe-Carry added a unique dimension to an evening that celebrated the lives of nurses and nursing. Co-sponsors of the program included the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, Hiram College Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities, and the Ohio Arts Council.

Jeanne Bryner, RN, Doris Needham, and Hilary Johnson with Rosa Lynn Pinkus, PhD,
director of the University of Pittsburgh Consortium Ethics Program.

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