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Between stillness and story: lessons of children's illness narratives

Sayantani DasGupta
Pediatrics 2007, 119 (6): e1384-91
17545365
In answer to an increasingly impersonal medical environment, educators in the medical humanities frequently turn to narrative studies to teach students for an emotionally fulfilling and interpersonally related professional practice. However, to elicit, to interpret, and to integrate patient stories into their work effectively, physicians must be in a state of awareness and attention, attuned to their emotional and intellectual reactions. The experiences of children and their families, in the form of pediatric illness narratives, hold unique insights for physicians in how to engage in an ethical, empathetic, and self-reflective practice. In particular, these narratives demonstrate the importance not only of story but also of stillness or silence to the practice of medicine. The voices of patients and their families hold both literal and allegorical lessons for physicians in how to move toward a medical practice involving not only diagnosis and treatment but also recognition and healing.

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