Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Medicine: Creative writing classes lead to better bedside manner

Or at least, that's what this Yale study reports, that by taking a writing workshop, 15 residents were better able to empathize with their patients.

Yale University researchers found that medical residents who completed a creative writing workshop felt the experience helped them better view their patients as people, and not just medical cases.

The effect, according to the researchers, seems to stem from the fact that the residents not only reflected on their own emotions and the experiences of their patients, but also wrote it down as a story.

Now of course, the study methods don't come anywhere close to meeting any sort of criteria to be included as "evidence-based" practice. But who cares? How about the simple institution of ars medicinae artis gratia?

But I wonder why researchers decided to wait until residency, when a culture of helplessness and pessimism is already deeply ingrained. Why not include this in medical school training during the clinical years, or at least during the fourth year, when nobody's doing anything important anyway, and med students have a taste, but not a total disillusionment, of what it means to be paged at four in the morning by a borderline asking for pain meds while trying to put in an A-line on your pneumonia patient who's probably going to have to be transferred to the unit anyway.

Yay for narrative medicine. But let's not go so far as to say that creative writing classes will make better doctors. Let's just say that it might make better human beings, and let the doctors fall where they will.

1 comment:

: Joseph j7uy5 said...

Not to be pessimistic or anything, but I would bet that any experience that enables residents to get enough sleep would improve their bedside manner. A workshop on basketweaving might have the same effect.

Having said that, I do think it is a good idea for people to think about having balance in their lives, particularly being sure that they have a creative outlet.