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Introduction to Health Humanities

The College of St. Scholastica via Independent

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This series of four short courses is entitled Introduction to Health Humanities. You may take one, two, three or all the courses; the content of each course is independent. However, intentional integration of the content from all the courses provides a fuller and deeper understanding of Health Humanities.

This series of courses provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Health Humanities. It considers the unique contributions, approaches, and resources that the humanities and arts bring to health care. The courses discuss basic methodological issues such as the differences between the health sciences and health humanities, fundamental concepts such as human dignity and personhood, and core philosophical questions such as materialism and biomedical reductionism, mind-body dualism, and the meaning and mystery of being human. The courses introduce biomedical or healthcare ethics and its primary principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. Topics related to spirituality and illness are investigated, including the meaning of human suffering and mortality, end-of-life issues and ethical care of the dying, and hope. The courses are concerned throughout to develop compassion and empathy as essential skills in humane health care.



  1. Introduction to Health Humanities I: Spirituality, Religion and Culture in Healthcare
    1. Perspectives on diversity and commonality.
    2. The role of spirituality, religion and culture in meaning making.
    3. How spirituality, religion and culture can affect healthcare.
    4. Questions to explore the patient’s spiritual, religious and cultural needs.
  2. Introduction to Health Humanities II: The Moral Imagination in Healthcare
    1. Moral imagination as the ground for empathic healthcare.
    2. Creating meaning out of illness through story.
    3. Developing the moral imagination through pathography and visual art.
    4. Analyzing poetry as a means for developing moral imagination.
  3. Introduction to Health Humanities III: Ethical Decision Making in Healthcare
    1. The foundational moral experience as the ground for healthcare ethics.
    2. Key principles for ethical decision-making in healthcare.
    3. Applications of autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice.
    4. Utilitarian and Kantian ethical theories.
  4. Introduction to Health Humanities IV: Mindfulness in Healthcare
    1. Mindfulness, presence, and competent and compassionate healthcare.
    2. Inattentional blindness: causes and remedies.
    3. Practices for being fully present.
    4. Deep listening as the first step to compassion.



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