The article that goes with this abstract focuses on the importance of doctors listening to the stories that people want to tell as well as the more narrow and technical stories that standard medical education teaches doctors to gather, document, and focus their work around. For my taste, this is better than many narrative medicine articles because it emphasizes how doctors should listen rather that focusing on the doctor’s empathy and humaneness while taking the spotlight off the “patient.”
I posted a link to the video by Chimamanda Adichie yesterday.
Commentary: Narrative Lessons From a Nigerian Novelist: Implications for Medical Education and Care
Joseph Zarconi, MD
In her TED Talk entitled “The danger of a single story,” Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie shares stories about her life that illustrate the natural human tendency to interpret the lives of others in the context of what she describes as narrowly constructed and often stereotypical “single stories.” These single-story views often portray others as wholly different from those constructing the stories, thereby diminishing the possibilities for genuine human connection. Referencing Adichie’s talk, the author describes the narrative dissonance that so often distances patients from their physicians. He illustrates the dangers to patients that can result from single-story caregiving by physicians, sharing an example from his own experience in which unnecessary harm came to his patient because of his own single-story thinking. The author argues that these single-story dangers must be openly and consciously addressed in the training of doctors to counteract the tendency for their clinical and educational experiences to inculcate single stories by which physicians come to interpret their patients. He offers suggestions as to why single-story thinking arises in clinical practice and how to mitigate these forces in medical education. The author concludes by contending that the education of physicians, and caring for the sick, should be aimed at preserving the dignity of those being served, and he argues for an “equal humanity” model of the patient– physician relationship that engages patients in all dimensions of their multiple stories.
Acad Med. 2012;87:1005–1007.