Narrative medicine in surgical education

A Scott Pearson, Michael P McTigue, John L Tarpley
Journal of Surgical Education 2008, 65 (2): 99-100

PURPOSE: Narrative medicine is a patient-centered approach to the practice of medicine that rescues the patients' stories and integrates what is important to them into decisions regarding their health care. Our hypothesis is that narrative understanding enhances the patient-provider relationship and contributes to optimizing patient care. We propose to use written narrative reflection to capture and measure the general competencies of systems-based practice, practice-based learning, communication skills, and professionalism. DEVELOPMENT/METHODS: The development of this narrative-based project is based on a pilot study that we conducted at our institution with third-year surgical clerkship students. In the pilot, students produced in-depth narrative write-ups on a patient they had had the opportunity to "know." We plan a similar approach for surgical resident education. After a brief discussion of narrative medicine during our scheduled didactic conference, the residents are asked to initiate a written narrative reflection on a patient of their choosing. The narratives will be collected 1 week later. Our plan is to repeat this assessment quarterly so that 4 narratives will be generated annually from internship through the chief resident year.

EVALUATION: The narratives will be analyzed for content and recurring themes that capture the resident's communication skills, professionalism, as well as self-critique (practice-based learning) and value attributed to health-care teams (systems-based practice).

OUTCOME MEASURES: After completion of the narratives, a 5-point Likert response survey will be given to the residents to assess their experience and the perceived value of written reflection. The written narratives will become part of the resident's ongoing portfolio. IMPLEMENTATION/EXPERIENCE TO DATE: Feedback from the medical student pilot study was favorable. When asked in a follow-up questionnaire, most students reported the experience to be valuable and recommended the use of narrative reflection in medical education. To assess the feasibility of this approach in surgical residency, we introduced the concept of narrative reflection to our residents during surgery grand rounds. Thirty-three narratives were collected 1 week later. CONCLUSION/NEXT STEPS: This preliminary experience suggests that acquisition of resident-authored narrative reflection is feasible during surgical residency. Use of this narrative-based approach in surgical resident education has the potential to capture and measure the general competencies of systems-based practice, practice-based learning, communication skills, and professionalism.

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