‘Pushed into humanity’: can learning about storytelling make better doctors?

narr gNarrative medicine encourages doctors to engage more deeply with patients by listening to their stories
The Melbourne general practitioner Mariam Tokhi knows exactly what her friend and colleague the senior paediatric emergency physician Fiona Reilly means when she speaks of her “back pocket full of ghosts”.
Reilly is talking about those haunting memories all medical doctors harbour about their interactions with patients who are sometimes labelled “difficult” or for whom things didn’t go as they should or could have. Some survived, perhaps even flourished. Others died. Read more

Narrative Medicine Writing Saved My Sanity

nmStorytelling saved my sanity during the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown afforded me time to write and share stories about my life and career. I wasn’t writing my memoir as much as I was engaged in the practice of narrative medicine writing — stories about the meaning of illness and opportunities to reflect on the vastness and depth of human experience in the healthcare setting. After I began telling my stories, I discovered the field of narrative medicine has been around since the turn of the century. Read more

Tell Your Patient Story: Michael Vitez video interview

vitezBeing a patient makes you the lead character in your health journey. If you have a rare or serious condition, your story might have started decades ago or maybe you’re coping with a brand-new diagnosis. Either way, you have something to say about your lived experience.  That’s why we asked Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Michael Vitez to record this short video that walks you through a seven-minute writing exercise. It’s a no-pressure way to see what happens when you put pen to paper or your fingers to the keyboard.

As a journalist, Vitez spent a lot of time at the bedside, writing about people who were seriously ill. He then went on to create the Narrative Medicine program at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia. Today, he helps doctors in training appreciate the human side of medicine and celebrate stories as an essential element in the doctor-patient relationship.

Read more

The mission of Erika Nelson

nelson-2bNarrative medicine, which encourages patients and families to share stories about their experience with illness or death, may seem like an unlikely path for someone whose career has focused mostly on German language and literature. Erika Nelson, associate professor of German Studies, came to the field from her own life experience: the loss of her late husband, Neil, in 2019, after a nine-year battle with cancer.

“Talking about death and dying teaches us what life is,” said Nelson, who also directs the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program. “Even with my husband’s passing, there were so many beautiful things. I had the great fortune to care for someone else and really fight for their life. And I learned so much about grief … as the world went into mourning for COVID, I was there too.”

Read more

Narrative medicine, narrative practice, and the creation of meaning

The-LancetMedical interest in the study of narratives, whether those of patients or doctors, goes back a long way. However, the field of narrative medicine emerged in the late 20th century and is associated in many people’s minds with two seminal texts. One was Narrative Based Medicine: Dialogue and Discourse in Clinical Practice, a collection of essays edited by two British academic general practitioners, Trisha Greenhalgh and Brian Hurwitz. The other was Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness by the US physician and literary scholar Rita Charon. In the years since then, the field has diversified considerably, but there is a consensus among its teachers and practitioners that narrative is central to medicine, requiring attunement to narratives told by patients and clinicians and competence in engaging with them. Read more

Narrative Medicine: A Digital Diary in the Management of Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Patients. Preliminary Results of a Multidisciplinary Pilot Study

cercatoGuidelines for the implementation of narrative medicine in clinical practice exist; however, in Italy, no standard methodology is currently available for the management of oncological patients. Since 2017, at the “Regina Elena” National Cancer Institute, studies using “digital narrative diaries” (DNMLAB platform) have been carried out; this article focuses on a pilot, uncontrolled, real-life study aiming to evaluate the utility of DNM integrated with the care pathway of patients with bone and limb soft tissue sarcomas. Read more

Narrative medicine: feasibility of a digital narrative diary application in oncology

ridA preliminary, open, uncontrolled, real-life study in the oncology and radiotherapy departments of Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico National Cancer Institute Regina Elena, Rome, (Italy), recruiting adult Italian-speaking patients who then completed the DNM diary from the start of treatment, showed that the use of the DNM in oncology patients assisted clinicians with understanding their patients experience. The results published on Journal of International Medical Research

Read more