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Natl Med J India. 2010 Jul-Aug;23(4):226-30.

Reflective writing by final year medical students: lessons for curricular change.

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Department of Family Medicine, Christian Medical College, Community Health and Training Centre, Bagayam, Vellore 632002, Tamil Nadu.



Reflective writinghas been used in undergraduate medical curricula to inculcate empathetic attitudes in medical students. Journal writing has been used to enhance reflection in a confidential space. We aimed to introduce our medical students to reflective writing of their daily experiences, both to enhance empathetic attitudes as well as to use the entries to Inform curricular changes.


We invited 16 final year medical students posted in the Department of Medicine to record their emotional experiences during a 6-week posting. Freedom to abstain without prejudice was emphasized, yet all 16 students complied.


According to the principle of grounded theory, the entries were grouped into 8 themes: (i) doctor-patient relationship; (ii) personal inadequacy; (iii) empathy; (iv) communication skills; (v) doctor's competence; (vi) patient behaviour; (vii) hospital practices; and (viii) personal feelings. There were 179 entries which were evaluable under the above categories, with no significant gender differences. Based on the entries, the following curricular suggestions were made: (i) use of diaries by medical students to express their emotional reactions and make value judgements, followed by guided discussion by experienced facilitators; (ii) introduction of communication skills courses at appropriate points to enhance Interview skills, empathetic listening, conflict resolution and breaking bad news; (iii) encourage reflection on healthcare delivery and its inequities and suggest methods of dealing with individual patients; and (iv) use of positive feedback and encouragement by faculty. Conclusions. Reflective journal writing by medical students in India gives valuable insights into improving communication skills and professionalism. Appropriate curricular changes should be made to meet the challenges posed by the existing healthcare system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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