Ever read about — or actually experienced — the 1950s and ‘60s coffeehouses where “beatniks” spouted their political views in poetic verse while appreciative audiences snapped their fingers in spontaneous appreciation? Welcome back to the future where story and poetry slams have become popular competitive events once again. And UCalgary Nursing is falling in step.
“Nurses have stories — stories about people, love, pain, suffering, grief, relief, depression, appreciation, regret, health, illness, death, research that changes practice, teaching that changes practice, practice that changes practice, teaching, and research,” says Dr. Nancy Moules, RN, PhD, professor and associate dean (research) for the faculty.
They are all stories that matter but often go untold, especially outside the realm of health care.
Moules and a team of storytellers aim to do their part to remedy that situation with a Nursing Story Slam, taking place at the end of the month and open to everyone. Inspired by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, who have been running their Story Slam since 2019, Moules felt encouraged to undertake the same type of event and invite nurses to share.
“We share so much on social and digital media about our lives,” Moules continues. “But oral storytelling will always have a place and a purpose.” Enter the story slam with its simple concept: bring poetry and story readings back to the coffeehouse, the stage, the auditorium in a live competition. A story slam offers presenters a short period of time to share a powerful short memory, reflection or experience in front of a live audience.
Moules and co-lead Marc Hall, research specialist in the Nursing Research Office, had interested UCalgary nurses — faculty and students — submit a 250-word summary of a five-minute story in February. Ten were selected for the live presentation and participants workshopped their submissions in late March to shape them into a quality performance for an audience. Of all stories presented at the Slam, three will be selected for first, second and third prizes.
“The workshop was just amazing! As someone who has never worked as a nurse, hearing these stories for the first time got me excited, emotional, and pumped for this event. Showcasing these stories is so important and gives you a small but powerful glimpse into the lives of nurses,” Hall says. “I can’t wait for others to hear these incredible stories!”
Moules encourages everyone who loves a well-told story to attend. “There is quite a range of experiences that the audience will hear,” she explains, “and they aren’t all sad.
“As nurses, we have an amazing privilege witnessing people at the best and worst of times. We have a responsibility to share the complexity, the joy and the pain of what we do. I guarantee a very eye-opening evening.”