Narrative Medicine

Narrative Medicine

Medicine is a complex discipline often described as a combination of scientific knowledge and technical skill. However, to effectively care for those in need medicine must extend beyond anatomy, physiology, and the mechanisms of disease to try and understand the pain and suffering of the sick and injured. Attentive listening, self-awareness, creative contact, and empathy are skills that are often missing from modern medical care and can help both patients and medical practitioners make sense of their experiences with disease and their interactions together.

In this sense, scholars, health care providers, and patients have turned to narrative medicine as a way to explore the meaning and consequences of disease and impairment, and strengthen clinical practice with the ability to identify, process, interpret, and be moved by stories of health and disease. Furthermore, medical narrative can also offer the medical practitioner a place of self-exploration and exchange with others. Ultimately, to care for those in need means to participate in a story and medical care should be the place where a patient can unravel his or her self and the clinician can welcome this knowledge.

In this module we will explore what narrative medicine is, what has been the impact of this field in healthcare, and how can we resort to medical narrative to help medical practitioners and patients care for their future.



Marco Viniegra, Ph.D.,  Research Associate, Science, Religion, and Culture, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA.


Lecturer’s Notes:

Narrative Medicine



Kleinman, Arthur. “Caregiving as Moral Experience,” The Lancet 380 (Nov 2012): 1550-1.

Sparks, Tabitha. “Literature in Medical School: Why, How, and If,” Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities (May 2012).

Charon, Rita. “The Sources of Narrative Medicine.” Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness. Eds. Hurwitz, B., Greenhalgh, T., Skultans, V. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. 3-15. Print.

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