Additional Insights

Lee Goatley

ENG 330A-Medical Visions in Literature

Literature and Medicine Article Review

September 17, 2010



Reichert, Julie, Brian Solan, Craig Timm, and Summers Kalishman. “Narrative Medicine and Emerging Clinical Practice.” Literature and Medicine 27.2 (2009): 248-71.

Thesis:  This article expands on an explorative movement that incorporates and utilizes medical literature and narrative writing in medical school curricula.  Literary assignments create an outlet for students to reflect, evaluate, and attain awareness of themselves as future doctors and of their medical school experiences.  A profession in the medical field presents personal, moral, ethical, mental, and physical dilemmas or questions that can be left unanswered by these individuals.  Medical students, who are confronted with these issues, have the opportunity to reflect and ponder these experiences which may aid in their self-awareness and their development as a professional as well as use their writings as a tool for the obtainment and advancement of knowledge. 

Development of Thesis:  An attempt to further investigate the effectiveness of reflection and medical literature in medical schools began at New Mexico’s School of Medicine.  Medical school students who were beginning an 8-week summer clinical program called the Practical Immersion Experience were encouraged to volunteer as participants in the pilot program called the PIE Narrative Strand.  This experimental program exchanged a portion of the standard clinical reports that the students were assigned to do with narratives and journal reflections.  The students were assigned a doctor or physician as a mentor for this project.  The student and mentor would correspond with via email, exchanging thoughts, experiences, and feedback.  These journal exchanges were not graded so the students had the freedom to write about a variety of topics and express personal opinions without the risk of being academically disciplined due to the content of their writings.  At the conclusion of the program, the students selected one piece of writing that they shared in an open-forum setting with fellow students and professors.

The evaluation of the success of this program was positive from both the perspective of the students and the mentors.  Many of the students commented that they were able to “analyze their experiences” and “vent” through these writings as well as “discuss the human side of medicine.” (258) The mentors who also participated in this project said that they were able to empathize with their mentee as well as remember themselves during medical school and as a young doctor and reflect upon their development and growth as a professional.     

Representative Quotations:


Most of the students’ writings could be categorized under the following themes: Initiation, identity, awe, frustration and disillusionment, questioning, values, and community. (254)

Having my narrative writing to work on when I was exhausted from my other work was like escaping to another way of thinking. (259)


I enjoyed seeing someone figure out who they were and what they wanted to be. I also enjoyed sharing my experiences with my student and seeing how our mutual experiences compared. (260)


As many of the PNS students pointed out through their writings, directly and indirectly, good medicine involves both science and art—skills to treat disease, but also an ability to observe, listen, connect, communicate sensitively, and interact with a community. (260)

Relevance: This article explicitly summarizes the effects of the implementation of reflective narratives within the medical field.   Students were able to extend their professional communication skills to the form of writing as well as gain a deeper understanding of their role within their field as well as evaluate their interactions with patients and other physicians.  Examined holistically, the personal development that the students achieved, the ability for literature to be a tool for learning, and the opportunity for these writings to serve as a blank pallet for this medium of art to flourish validate the implementation of these assignments into medical school curricula.


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