Medical Humanities

In education, Johanna Shapiro has done interesting work, for example including relevant poems into objective structured clinical examinations (Female, by Ingrid Hughes, about a woman facing a probable diagnosis of breast cancer; Dear Left Knee by John Davis; Back Pain, by Ingrid Hughes; Night on Call, by Dr Rita Iovino). A large proportion said they felt it increased empathy, and had a significant effect on how they might present bad news, on the ultimate treatment plan. Most felt the Night on call poem helped gain perspective. [Medical Education 2005]

In the same paper, adding some readings led students to say (in 1/3 to 2/3 of cases) that they would be more likely to take into consideration psychosocial insights, or that it increased some dimension of empathy for the patient, including helping them take the patient more seriously.

Themes written by doctors or medical students are commonly about the rewards and stresses, relationships, role models, death, the meaning of life – things not directly addressed in the curriculum.

The quality is less important that the utility to a particular audience.

[BMJ 2010]