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UAB artist using poetry to reduce burnout, stress of healthcare workers

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 6:31 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WAFF) - An artist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Arts in Medicine is creating a new, unique way to help reduce burnout and stress of healthcare workers.

Salaam Green, an artist-in-residence, became a certified listener poet during the pandemic. Through the Listener Poet program, she is creating a space for healthcare workers to share their experiences.

Green then turns their stories into poems, helping them to rebuild confidence in their jobs and using their voices to heal their lives through poetry, writing and storytelling.

“The first question that I usually ask is: ‘What do you want a poem about?’ Then I ask them, ‘How do you want this poem to make you feel,’ said Green.

“We take a deep dive into their current emotions and then the emotions that they’re hoping to feel after reading this poem. And then I ask them to tell me a story about themselves – anything that they want me to know or anything that they have been having a burning desire just to get off of their chest. And after talking about those three things for a minute, I began to craft that poem for them,” Green added.

The Listener Poet sessions kicked off this month for National Poetry Month. Green says, so far, she has met with 12 to 15 professionals, including Malcolm Marler, Leadership Support Specialist at UAB Medicine.

For a little over 12 years, Marler served as the Director of Pastoral Care. Throughout the pandemic, he’s had to think of creative ways to support his patients and staff members when he couldn’t go into the patient’s rooms, said Marler.

According to Marler, he would place his hands on the windowpanes of the patients’ rooms to establish a connection and pray for them. Marler shared this in his meeting with Green; he says his session and the poem brought him to tears.

“It helped me to let go of some of that stress – some of that difficulty of dealing with people, who are having very difficult times, people who are dying and not able to have their family with them. So, it was a gift for me,” said Marler.

Green says they have established an online gallery for those who are willing to allow their stories and poems to be shared with the broader community.

If you need some Wednesday morning inspiration, click here to see the online gallery.

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