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.

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