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Teach Learn Med. 2005 Summer;17(3):279-84.

Narrative means to humanistic ends.

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Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, CANADA.



Efforts to "rehumanize" medical education through curriculum reform and program development have been numerous and ongoing in recent years. One particularly intriguing contribution has come from the area of narrative studies. It is now common to use literature in general, and physician--patient narratives in particular, both to expand students' understanding of the clinical encounter and to sensitize them to the humanistic aspects of medicine.


In this article, we describe the process by which we have introduced key insights from and elements of narrative theory into our 1st-year clinical skills program. Rather than limiting our efforts to the use of literature and to the description of individual narrative encounters, however, we have framed our entire course as an exercise in narrative construction. We refer to this process as "narrative structuring."


A combination of short essays on topics related to the various literary materials utilized in the course, written reports on ethical aspects of the clinical cases presented in the clinical skills sessions, and student journaling are integral components of the evaluation of this course.


Characterizing our course in terms of narrative structuring serves both to integrate the various elements of our complex curriculum around a common theme and to remind both students and faculty alike of the privileges and responsibilities we share as we participate in the writing of one another's stories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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