Monday, May 16, 2005
As an editor leading a tribe of neophyte writers, Robin Edgar encouraged her students this year to dig deep for those buried emotions and memories. Their collection of short stories would be bound in a book. She wanted the two dozen scribes to use their senses. Show, don't tell.

She wasn't teaching a college class but holding editorial court with a group of health-care workers at Carolinas Medical Center-University. About 1,000 copies of the self-published work, "Celebrating 20 Years and Growing," arrived from the printers last week and commemorates the hospital's 20th anniversary.

A grant from Charlotte's Arts and Science Council paid for Edgar's Artist-in-the-Workplace assignment, a program that pairs creative types with local companies. Although typically a thank-you for corporate contributors, the program often has collateral benefits of morale-boosting and team-building. As such, it shares a purpose with a small but persistent cadre of national programs that use the arts to help corporations meet productivity or other workplace goals.

For Phyllis Parette, a nurse and one of the co-authors of Carolinas Medical Center-University's book, "Celebrating 20 Years and Growing," the creative experience renewed her sense of purpose.
Listening to her fellow workers retell their stories conjured fond memories of patients. Her short story retold her work with the patient with the bad back, who returned one day to give her an angel of mercy statue.
She hopes the book offers readers a glimpse of her profession's humanity. "It's not just a job," she says.

Not everyone who participated had feel-good stories and some wanted to vent, says Edgar, the editor, who is a freelance writer based in Charlotte.
But she reminded the group of the book's primary audience: administrators, co-workers and patients. "It's meant to be commemorative for the hospital," Edgar says of the book. "So (we) didn't want a lot of dark stuff."

Rose Brandau, assistant administrator and chief nurse executive at CMC-University, says no staff were pressured to partake in the off-duty exercise. "I don't think you get a good story if you pressure people," she says.
Gail Linyard, a fellow author and nurse manager at the hospital, wrote "Room 418." It's the story of how she helped a forlorn cancer patient overcome tears and fears and survive chemo and radiation treatments.

She says the creative exercise not only brought her closer to fellow workers, it reaffirmed her belief that possessing a positive mind and spirit can triumph over disease.
"She calls me her angel," Linyard says of the former patient, who remains in contact. "I say she proved my theory."

Mike Drummond
Business writer
The Charlotte Observer