Writing to Cope: Meaning Making for Professionals Caring for the Cancer Patient

  • Nicole Saint-Louis CUNY-Guttman Community College
Keywords: meaning-making, narrative oncology, cancer, theory


This paper will focus on the use of narrative or writing as an opportunity to bear witness, honor and work through the grief and loss professional caregivers experience in their oncology practice. The discussion includes, meaning making, narrative theory, narrative therapy and the growing literature of narrative medicine. Sample narratives will be shared to elucidate how writing can assist with the pain, loss and grief professional caregivers experience in the care of those coping with death and dying.

Author Biography

Nicole Saint-Louis, CUNY-Guttman Community College

Nicole Saint-Louis

Assistant Professor, Human Services

Program Coordinator, Human Services

& Founding Faculty


Dr. Nicole Saint-Louis earned a doctorate in clinical social work at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, where she researched job stress, burnout, compassion fatigue and the use of narrative interventions with oncology professionals. After receiving her doctorate, she received advanced training in narrative medicine at Columbia University and is currently participating in training in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Education affiliated with New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Saint-Louis has over 15 years of healthcare and hospital experience and directed the narrative oncology program and served on the interdisciplinary narrative professionalism committee at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Saint-Louis also has experience in forensic social work, child welfare, home health care and private practice. Prior to joining Guttman Community College (formerly the New Community College) as a founding faculty member, she taught graduate and undergraduate courses on human behavior, communication in social work practice, clinical practice and social research at The University of Pennsylvania and Temple University in Philadelphia. She serves as a peer reviewer on several health journals and has published and presented at conferences on narrative and health care topics. Her research interests include culturally relevant interventions and pedagogy, narrative medicine, palliative and end-of-life care, psychosocial oncology, job stress and compassion fatigue.