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Narrative medicine: Shaping the clinical interaction of the future

01 May 2019

Narrative medicine: Shaping the clinical interaction of the future

This project aims to improve the UMCU training programme for medical professionals by adding narrative medicine to the curriculum. Narrative medicine is based on the premise that the academic study of narratives will help medical students hone their listening and observation skills, stimulate their empathic abilities, and make them fit for their future interactions with patients. This approach to medicine was implemented in a new bachelor course and teaching protocols.

Download the Comenius programme application Narrative medicine

Background

Narrative medicine is based on the premise that the academic study of narratives – both literary and personal – will help medical students hone their listening and observation skills, stimulate their empathic abilities, and make them fit for their future interactions with patients. This approach to medicine “employs narrative skills to augment scientific understandings of illness” (Lewis, 2011) and can be seen as a necessary counterbalance to the dehumanizing nature of technology. In spite of its growing popularity in the US (e.g., Shapiro & Ross, 2002; DasGupta & Charon, 2004; Lewis, 2005; DasGupta et al., 2006; Ventres & Gross, 2015), the proven methods and practices of narrative medicine have yet to be transposed to similar courses for medical students in The Netherlands.

Project description & goals

We propose to improve our current training programme for medical professionals at the University Medical Centre Utrecht (UMCU) by adding narrative medicine to our existing curriculum. First, we will create a stand-alone narrative medicine elective course that will combine the practice of literary close reading with patient participation in the form of patient-teachers who will join the classroom discussion. Second, we will develop a narrative medicine teaching protocol that can be used as a guide for clinical teachers at our university and will include specific parameters for training patient-teachers. Third, we will adapt and integrate the narrative medicine activities developed for the elective course into other course offerings for medical and paramedical students at the UMCU.

Our primary learning objectives are threefold:

  1. We want to create a rich learning environment that will reveal patients’ perspectives, thus helping our students become better attuned to the feelings and needs of others and ultimately making them better healers. In other words, the qualities and skills gained by practicing narrative medicine will provide our students with “the necessary equipment for coming to envision and comprehend the meaning-making of patients, families, clinicians, and wider communities (Charon et al., 2016)
  2. We want to encourage more self-reflection and introspection in our students
  3. We want to provide our students with a space where they can further develop their professional identity.

Results

The bachelor course ‘Narratieven in de Geneeskunde’ (course code GNBA222518) was developed and ran as an elective course in block 4 of the academic year 2018-2019. The course was open to students of Medicine and other faculties (e.g., social sciences, humanities).

The project also resulted in the publication of an article “Narrative medicine as a medical education tool: A systematic review”(Milota, van Thiel & van Delden, 2019). The article reports the results of a narrative review of 36 articles reporting on a narrative medicine classroom intervention.

References

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