Kent State nursing students use poetry to help cope in nursing profession


The “Ode to My Body poem” was written by a 12th-grade class at the Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna as part of the “Traveling Stanzas” program. Designed by Kent State graduate Erin Stearns.

Abigail Winternitz

The Wick Poetry Center hosted “Healing Stanzas,” a workshop hosted in celebration of the College of Nursing’s 50th anniversary.

The workshop is a part of the Wick Poetry Center’s “Traveling Stanzas” program which, according to Wick Poetry Center director David Hassler, aims to facilitate a global conversation through the voice of poetry.

“Poems say things in a new and different way,” Hassler said. “It’s a form of communication that a lot of people have yet to experience fully.”

Hassler, who led the workshop, explained to the students why he thought poetry was relevant to the nursing field by talking about how poetry can be used as a tool to understanding or coping with harsh realities.

“Poetry shines a new light on the things in our mind that, if left alone, could end up traumatizing us,” Hassler said. “By giving those things shape and clarity through poetry, we can work through them.”

Hassler then had the students read the poem “Ode to My Body,” a poem written as part of the “Traveling Stanzas” program. The poem detailed different parts of the human body — including ears, eyebrows, wrists and belly button — and how they were important in everyday life.

The students were then asked to write and share their own “Ode to My Body” poems, which ranged from talking about anything from eyelashes to kidneys.

Ashley Yurkovich, a senior nursing major, said the whole workshop experience was eye-opening to her.

“As a nursing student, I’m always looking for little ways to connect with my patients,” Yurkovich said. “I hadn’t really thought of poetry as a way to do that before tonight, but I think it would help to make a patient’s day, and so I’m all for it.”

Jess Paul, a senior nursing student, had already experienced the “Ode to My Body” poem before the workshop.

“My freshman year I went to the (Deweese) Health Center for a sinus infection, and the check-up room they had me in had the “Ode to My Body” poem hanging up,” Paul said. “I remember thinking it was really cool and it reminded me to stay positive about my situation.”

Tracy Motter, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs, was also present at the workshop. Motter said she was impressed by her students and their dedication to writing their poems during the workshop.

“Nursing can be a demanding and stressful occupation,” Motter said. “It’s important that our students learn how to slow down and reflect on the tougher aspects of the profession, and give them meaning. Poetry is a good way to do that.”

The Wick Poetry Center plans to display the poems created at the “Healing Stanzas” workshop in Henderson Hall. For more information about the Wick Poetry Center and the “Traveling Stanzas” program, log on to

Abigail Winternitz is College of Nursing and Public Health reporter, contact her at [email protected]