A pilot study to explore if reading fictional works of medical writers can be used as a formative assessment tool in the learning of Humanism and Bioethics: A narrative report

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Sivalingam Nalliah
Chandramani Thuraisingham
Su Ping Ong


In a pilot study conducted to explore if reading fictional works of medical writers could be used as a tool to formatively assess learning of Humanism and Bioethics, a medical student in her elective rotation at International Medical University (IMU) was assigned to read a story-book relating to daily life and suffering authored by a medical-writer, and subsequently write a reflective narrative report which was assessed with guided reflection by her mentor. It was perceived that reading of fictional works of medical writers during medical students’ leisure time may prove to be a worthwhile and enjoyable way for students to learn higher levels of clinical competence, in the realm of humanism and bioethics. From the student’s report in this pilot study it was evident that she had gained experiential learning in three areas, namely, self-reflection and self-awareness, empathy, and ethical reasoning skills. Although Bioethics and Professionalism delivered through formal face to face teaching in classrooms and the clinical setting is taught in all ten semesters of the medical program, reading fiction of medical writers as an innovative tool to formatively assess the learning of Humanism and Bioethics could be explored further from the observations noted in this pilot study.

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