The Art and Science of Narrative Medicine

Many medical students, even those with a background in the liberal arts, may have a hard time conceptualizing the role that the humanities–in particular, the art of the narrative–may have to play in clinical practice. However, a relatively new theory and practice of medicine, called narrative medicine, is beginning to take root and contains elements of both medical and language arts.
What is Narrative Medicine?
The phrase “narrative medicine” was coined by Dr. Rita Charon, one of the founders of this movement, which began to develop in the 1990’s in response to the perception of detachment and over-professionalism in medical practice. Dr. Charon wanted to explore new ways that medical practice could become more humanized and emotive– and lead to greater satisfaction with the clinical relationship for both doctors and their patients. In her definitive article, entitled “Narrative Medicine: a Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession and Trust” which appeared in JAMA in 2001, Charon introduces her readers to this new concept by noting that “adopting methods such as close reading of literature and reflective writing allows narrative medicine to examine and illuminate four of medicine’s critical narrative situations: the physician and patient, physician and self, physician and colleagues and physician and society…By bridging the divide that separates physicians from patients, themselves, colleagues and society, narrative medicine offers fresh approaches for reflective, empathic and nourishing medical care.”

Read more