Original Article

CME Article: An Exploratory Study of a Fourth-Year Narrative Medicine Elective: Promoting Strategies for Personal Well-Being and Improved Patient Care

Authors: Sarah E. Stumbar, MD, MPH, Marthena Phan, BS, Marquita Samuels, MBA


Objectives: Narrative medicine promotes the effective practice of medicine by requiring clinicians to listen to, reflect on, and manage not only the physiology of disease but also patient stories. The Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine offers a narrative medicine elective to fourth-year students who participate in reading, writing, and discussion activities that focus on processing their medical school experiences. This study evaluated the potential roles of this course in promoting strategies for personal well-being and improved patient care.

Methods: Students completed an anonymous, optional, postcourse survey consisting of Likert-type and short-answer questions. The Likert-type questions assessed students’ perceived impact of the curriculum on their knowledge of narrative medicine, likelihood to write about patients in the future, and their understanding of their own patient care experiences. The short-answer questions asked why students took the course and how they would apply their learning to patient care and their own well-being. These responses were analyzed separately by two coders through an inductive approach that grouped responses into themes, which were then agreed upon through an iterative process.

Results: All of the students “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the course encouraged them to write, reflect, and share their experiences. A common theme across short-answer responses was a desire to write about, share, and reflect on experiences, as well as to develop skills regarding demonstrating empathy, processing emotions, and advocating for patients.

Conclusions: Students reported that the narrative medicine elective taught them strategies for improving patient care and personal well-being, which they planned to continue to practice in the future. These findings show how the practice of narrative medicine during medical school may provide opportunities to promote reflection and resilience.

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