Haiku Helps Nurse Cope with Working in the ER


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Nursing Specialties

Is there a more stressful place to work than the ER?

People deal with the stress in a variety of ways — hobbies, friendships, and often a hefty dose of black humor.

Nurse Jason Hautala has found that haiku gives him a way to process the stress and drama of his job.

Given the nature of his job as an emergency department nurse, Hautala has learned that friends are not eager to hear about his work.

“They don’t want to talk about scrotal maggots over a rice dinner,” said the Longview native, who now lives and works in the Puget Sound region.

Even Hautala’s wife, a former critical care nurse who left nursing to start a photography business, has curtailed his after-work tales. But Hautala has found an audience.

When his hospital solicited poems for an employee newsletter, he dashed off 10 haiku that captured unvarnished ER moments. Friends found them funny, but they were turned down for the publication.

Challenged, Hautala wrote “a couple hundred more” of the spare Japanese verses that pack meaning into three lines and published them in “Haiku STAT!,” a book of snippets that can feel like a punch in the stomach.

Only one patient,
Brought by two ambulances.
Bad day for someone.

How did this happen?
Cigarette burns to son’s back.
Lucky I am not armed.

Hautala said the hospital where he works wants no association with the book and no mention in publicity.

In a way, it reinforces what he has done. The power of these poems is their irony. He has taken a form normally used to distill the beauty of nature and used its 5-7-5 syllable structure to reveal the side of nature no one wants to see or smell.

“It’s geared toward emergency medical folks,” said Hautala (pronounced HOW-tuh-la). “It’s a niche market. A lot of emergency room people develop a morbid sense of humor.”

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