Loss and Tomorrow’s Doctors: how the humanities can contribute to personal and professional development

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Victoria Tischler


Background Previous research notes the benefits that the study of humanities can bring to medical education and professional practice. Empathic skills, holistic care, acknowledgment of differing values and patient-centred practice are said to be promoted by engagement with humanities. This qualitative study sought the views of students about the value of such engagement and asked them to reflect on their experience of medical humanities training. Methods A focus group study was used to explore the views of medical students taking a humanities training course. A number of themes were derived from the data using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results The themes indicated the value of humanities-based courses beyond improvements in patient centred practice. Engagement with the humanities was found to address the loss and disillusionment that students felt on entering medical school and progressing through their training. The humanities offered opportunities to improve their confidence, reconnect with previous interests that had been subsumed by their medical studies and time to reflect on their choice of career. Students also identified with a peer group and with teachers who acted as role models which may encourage them to consider particular medical specialities.   Conclusions We argue that humanities training should be valued in the medical curriculum in terms of improving professional practice and developing healthy coping strategies to manage the stress of a demanding vocational career.  

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