As Director of Narrative Medicine at Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine, my mission is to focus on the human side of medicine. Essentially, I'm encouraging students, doctors, nurses, staff and patients to share their stories, and I'm telling stories myself from the hospital. The underlying premise is that stories are an indispensable part of medicine, too often overlooked.
The facts are well reported: Doctors too often feel isolated, frustrated, and burned out. Their humanity is challenged. The focus on the patient and patient’s story is often overlooked and devalued in the rush and crush. Students come into medical school full of empathy but in their education and training this often erodes.
Our goal is to protect and support this empathy, to nourish the humanism that brings physicians into the profession, and to teach the skills of narrative that help at the bedside and beyond.
Last year we led over 40 narrative medicine reflection workshops with seven hospital residency programs and with students in the medical school. The results and responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Reflective writing is at the heart of our program, and doctors, students, nurses and patients have written for their own benefit, and for medical journals as well as newspapers and websites. A narrative medicine page on the LKSOM website is home to much of our student writing, and each year students compile and publish The Pulse, our local literary magazine.
We run a number of electives in the medical schools and programs like our Story Slams encourage storytelling and reflection in many forms. Students also conceive and complete individual or group projects for elective credit under the guidance of our faculty. Our program gives medical students and physicians skills and opportunities to reflect on their experiences, to find and celebrate meaning in their work, and to appreciate the value of the patient’s story in patient care.
Stories are an indispensable part of medicine. Along with the physician’s touch, they are at the core of the patient-physician relationship. Stories have the power to heal, inspire, build relationships and change the world.
I also want to tell stories myself. I want to bring a sense of wonder to the hospital, to focus on the humanity and the extraordinary stories that unfold here every day, from the heartbreaking to the heroic.
Here is a link to our narrative medicine page:
And here is a story recently by a Temple ER Doc that for a time was the "most viewed" story on the New York Times website: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/opinion/sunday/how-to-tell-a-mother-her-child-is-dead.html
Here is a piece a student wrote about our narrative medicine program: http://www.doctorswhocreate.com/pulitzer-prize-winning-journalist-focuses-on-narrative-medicine/
Here is an amazingly powerful piece that was written and photographed by a medical student: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/opinion/sunday/guns-violence-hospitals.html
Here are two pieces relating to addiction, the first is a project we did with 22 medical students, https://medium.com/temples-narrative-medicine-program/archive and following that a link to a heartbreaking story I wrote: https://medium.com/temples-narrative-medicine-program/one-overdose-story-in-a-hospital-with-far-too-many-cd87bcd06627
I’m linking below to a few patient stories I wrote:
I’ve got so many ideas. Onward and upward!