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The care of the sick unfolds in stories. The effective practice of healthcare requires the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others. Medicine practiced with narrative competence is a model for humane and effective medical practice. It addresses the need of patients and caregivers to voice their experience, to be heard and to be valued, and it acknowledges the power of narrative to change the way care is given and received.
The Narrative Medicine master's program seeks to strengthen the overarching goals of medicine, public health, and social justice, as well as the intimate, interpersonal experiences of the clinical encounter. The program fulfills these objectives by educating a leadership corps of health professionals and scholars from the humanities and social sciences who will imbue patient care and professional education with the skills and values of narrative understanding.
Health care and the illness experience are marked by uneasy and costly divides: between those in need who can access care and those who cannot, between health care professionals and patients, and between and among health care professionals themselves. Narrative medicine is an interdisciplinary field that challenges those divisions and seeks to bridge those divides. It addresses the need of patients and caregivers to voice their experience, to be heard and to be valued, and it acknowledges the power of narrative to change the way care is given and received.
The study of narrative medicine is profoundly multidisciplinary. The curriculum for the master's program in Narrative Medicine includes core courses in narrative understanding, the illness experience, the tools of close reading and writing; focused courses on narrative in fields like genetics, social justice advocacy, and palliative care; electives in a discipline of the student's choosing; and field work.
Who Should Apply
The M.S. in Narrative Medicine is appropriate for health care professionals and trainees in clinical disciplines such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychoanalysis, and pastoral care. This degree can be combined with other degree programs in medicine or other fields. It could also be valuable for students or alumni of graduate programs in literature, writing and health journalism, oral history, and medical anthropology and other social sciences who want to understand illness and disability in their own scholarly activities or to help teach health care professionals.
Graduates of the Narrative Medicine program will be positioned to lead narrative medicine programs in medical schools and hospitals, developing, implementing, and evaluating the impact of these programs on clinical practice and quality of care. As program directors, division heads, department chairs and senior administrators, they will be equipped with skills to generate narrative work and supervise practitioners and to uphold and promote standards for intellectual, clinical and research work of narrative medicine.
For graduate students who are earlier in their careers, and particularly those who combine the M.S. in Narrative Medicine with medical or nursing degrees, this degree will position them as they continue their professional training in a range of clinical fields to evolve into narratively competent clinicians who will be able to pass on this understanding of the value of narrative to clinical competence, and, most importantly will go into their own advanced training—internships, residencies, fellowships--equipped to be a different kind of caregiver.
For students from other disciplines—such as literature, rhetoric, creative writing, anthropology, gender studies, oral history, religious studies—this intensive immersion in clinical work offered by the graduate program in Narrative Medicine provides the unusual opportunity to be part of a theory/practice experience that enriches their own scholarly and teaching work, and will be helpful in obtaining jobs in health care.