Interventional Narratology: Form and Function of the Narrative Medical Write-up
Wood, James Hunter
Once considered the great listeners and tellers of a community's stories of illness and recovery, physicians have ostensibly been displaced from their role and have therefore become less effective practitioners of empathetic medicine. The emerging movement known as "narrative-based medicine" purposes to counteract this deterioration by teaching students and physicians to be more insightful readers of literature and more skillful creative writers. To that end, programs in narrative medicine include three basic components: close readings of literary texts, creative writing, and reflective discussion groups. Although "literature and medicine" programs have long been in existence, there is at least one aspect of narrative medicine that is unique and valuable: the narrative medical write-up, a non-traditional patient work-up in which students narrate the patient's story, focusing on the individual experience of illness. The narrative medical write-up recasts the student-doctor as the "storyteller" of the hospital, insisting on his or her role as both reader and writer of the intricate dramas of daily life on the wards. It is this distinction that sets the narrative medical write-up apart from all other aspects of narrative medicine and which sets narrative medicine apart from its long line of "literature and medicine" predecessors. This paper discusses the narrative medical write-up from a theoretical perspective, with emphasis on understanding its form as prerequisite to suggesting its function within medical education.