We’re living through an intense period of suffering. Among other crises, we’re dealing with gun and traffic violence, the anticipated imminent removal of abortion access, and, of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As these catastrophes impact patients and survivors, violence and suffering also take a remarkable toll on healthcare providers and medical professionals. Physicians are, after all, just as human as folks in other professions, and even more front-line exposed to the effects of various disasters.
It’s in this moment of desperately needed support and catharsis that The Nocturnists, the Bay Area’s six-year-old storytelling series, by and for healthcare workers, is returning to the stage. Specifically, the first in-person event in over two years will take place at the Brava Theater stage in San Francisco on Friday, June 10. The night’s theme is fitting: “Together Again.”
Representing a diversity of healthcare disciplines and locations across the country, the event’s storytellers include artistically minded med students, a pediatric urgent care physician, and a hospice doc who is also studying for a master’s in divinity with a focus on peacemaking. Oakland composer and concert pianist Motoko Honda will perform original music.
“After two years of isolation, we were craving an in-person experience,” explains Dr. Emily Silverman, an internal medicine physician and the founder of The Nocturnists. “We believe this gathering will be extra powerful, considering the trauma we’ve endured as healthcare workers, and the loneliness associated with that. Often the most potent forms of healing are communal.”
Silverman founded the storytelling series in 2016 during her third year as a med school resident at UCSF. She wanted to cultivate a restorative space for medical practitioners and others in the healthcare community coping with high levels of stress and burnout. What started with 40 people assembled in someone’s living room, with just a few cajoled into sharing their stories, has grown to a formal but still-intimate series of events with audiences in the hundreds. Today, healthcare professionals actively seek to be involved.