This study aimed at evaluating how doing poetry could affect students’ understanding of medical practice and at assessing the effectiveness of the evaluation method used. Qualitative research was carried out on the experiences of medical students participating in a poetry workshop, followed by some quantitative analysis. The study was conducted at Peninsula Medical School and St Ives, Cornwall, UK, with three medical students, a poet and a pathologist as participants. Data were collected by interviews, observation and web access. “Doing poetry” with a professional poet was found to assist communication between doctors and patients as it enhanced skills of observation, heightened awareness of the effect of language and fostered deep reflection. Poetry was also found to offer an outlet for medics and patients. The voluntary workshop attracted three participants; however, it might have had an effect on the wider student community because the poetry website received 493 hits in four months. Qualitative methods worked well as a tool for evaluation. “Doing poetry for poetry’s sake” seemed to foster the development of skills related to empathy. The opportunity to do poetry should be made available to medical students as part of a wider arts and humanities programme.
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This work was supported by HEFCE through a National Teaching Fellowship Grant to J C McL.
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