Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons has integrated the study of literature and writing into the curriculum. Doctors are studying “narrative medicine” and taking it with them into the hospitals:
As part of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Education Innovations Project, Dr. Panush and his faculty colleagues bring poetry, short stories and essays to rounds each day and discuss them in the context of the patients they see. These daily discussions, supplemented by offsite weekly conferences, form the core of the residents’ narrative medicine experience.
One year into the program, Dr. Panush and his colleagues looked at the effect of these daily discussions on the residents and their patients. What they found were significant improvements in patient evaluations of residents and patients’ health and quality of life, from hospital admission to discharge…
Dr. Benjamin Kaplan, a second-year resident at Saint Barnabas, remarked on the transformation he saw in fellow resident physicians during the first year of the humanities program.
“Their management of patients changed,” Dr. Kaplan said. “They remembered to do things that I don’t think they would have otherwise done, like always talking to the family, gently touching patients, and continually explaining the course of treatment and what the doctors are thinking so patients know.”
And the time commitment? “It does get pretty busy,” Dr. Kaplan conceded. “But if you want to make time for it, you can. Spending a half hour a day to remember that we are all human, not just doctors or pharmacists or nurses or patients, is important enough that I think you should do it.”