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Can narrative medicine education contribute to the delivery of compassionate care? A review of the literature
  1. Sarah Barber1,
  2. Carlos J Moreno-Leguizamon2
  1. 1 Service Lead/HIV Specialist Nurse, NHS Bromley Healthcare, Global House, Hayes, Kent, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Health and Education, University of Greenwich, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carlos J Moreno-Leguizamon, Faculty of Health and Education, University of Greenwich, Avery Hill Campus, London SE9 2UG, UK; c.j.moreno{at}

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Narrative Medicine has emerged as a discipline from within the medical humanities1 and takes inspiration from philosophy, literature, poetry, art and social sciences theories. In particular, it is underpinned by philosophical approaches such as phenomenology, postmodernism and narratology, proposing that clinicians must attend to the lived experience of their patients and apply the science to the person.2 Meanwhile, the link between medicine and literature is evident in the growing volume of texts written about professionals', or lay people's experiences of illness and disease.3–8 In exploring this link further, Charon9 has contributed greatly to consolidate the theory of Narrative Medicine. She defines it as ‘medicine practiced with the narrative competencies to recognise, absorb, interpret and be moved by the stories of illness’.9 She suggests that, in exploring texts and reading them closely, one finds the tools of language such as metaphor, plot, character and temporality. She suggests that learning such skills enables clinicians to recognise that same language when it appears in clinical interaction practice. This ‘narrative competence’ can be fostered through education initiatives that particularly explore literature, creative and reflective writing, storytelling and poetry.9

As Lewis2 explains, the question is about what kind of healthcare we want to deliver. Those who practise Narrative Medicine suggest that the adoption of this approach may help marry the art and science, thus improving quality in delivering a more person-centred type of care.2 ,10 With its emphasis on the patient experience, Narrative Medicine complements the current dominance of productivity, efficiency and evidence-based care. Similarly, Narrative Medicine contributes to attempts to go beyond the positivist dominance in healthcare that threatens quality of care, as science alone cannot help us to understand the unpredictability and frailty of people.11–13 To secure support for Narrative Medicine education, there …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.