Creighton nursing alumna, former faculty member publishes poetry collection
For Amy Haddad, there’s something intrinsic to the profession of nursing that makes for a good foundation in the creative arts: Developing a keen eye for detail.
“As a nurse, you never lose your clinical eye,” she says. “When you start to become serious about being a writer, you start to see things in how other writers phrase things or move a story along. You start to see how details illustrate character or backstory. And you focus more on how you might be able to shape that through language in your own writing.”
Haddad, PhD, BSN’75, professor emerita and former director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton, this year published her first poetry collection, An Otherwise Healthy Woman, through the Backwaters Press. The work explores modern health care, drawing on Haddad’s experiences as a nurse, patient and caregiver.
“All of the poems in the collection are based on my experiences and my creative imagination,” Haddad says. “Every time I find myself in a patient setting, I notice everything and listen to everything too as potential grist for my poem mill. I make little notes on the backs of things — there are certain exchanges or images that happen in waiting rooms, for example, that I might be able to write about or see in a different way.”
Becoming a poet has, in a way, been a strenuous exercise in brevity for Haddad, who retired from Creighton in 2018 and later completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a health care provider and educator, she says, her natural inclination is to explain as clearly and directly as possible.
Poetry, she says, gets to the point of presenting information in a very different way.
“With poetry, you don’t have to explain to the reader every single meaning you intend behind words in a poem,” Haddad says. “The reader is going to decide and interpret what I’m trying to say … My biggest struggle in writing is to eliminate all of my explanations.”
Haddad’s creative endeavors began early on during her time at Creighton, where, even after starting her nursing studies in the College of Nursing, she took classes in dance and art history. After graduating, she worked as a nurse with St. Joseph’s Hospital in Omaha, later pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Nebraska College of Nursing and a PhD in adult education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Haddad returned to Creighton in 1985 to teach ethics in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. She later held the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Endowed Chair in Health Sciences and held a joint faculty appointment with the College of Nursing.
Throughout her time at Creighton, Haddad says she worked to incorporate art and the humanities into her courses, using poetry and short stories in her lessons with health sciences students and, at times, hosting class trips to local theater productions that related to topics in health care and ethics.
“It was wonderful to have that underpinning of the liberal arts in my education at Creighton, and I was glad to bring that to my students as well,” she says. “As an educator, you hope that you can open the door for someone to enjoy the arts and humanities and have it be a part of their life, whether or not they ever do anything with it career-wise. It just makes them a more well-rounded person.”