Reflective student narratives: honing professionalism and empathy

Upreet Dhaliwal, Satendra Singh, Navjeevan Singh


The affective domain is not explicitly targeted during medical studies and poor skills in this domain may lead to conflict when dealing with patients. Reflective narratives are said to promote humanitarianism and professional development. We aimed to examine reflective narratives written by medical students in our institution for content relating to ethical and professional Attitude and Behaviour, Communication, respect for Diversity and Disability, and Empathy (the ABCDE paradigm). We were also interested in understanding how far the students enjoyed learning through the writing of narratives and in determining their perceived learning from the exercise. Volunteer medical students were introduced to Gibbs’ reflective cycle during a half-day workshop. After giving written informed consent, they submitted anonymous reflective narratives (online), based on an interaction that they witnessed between a patient and a doctor/student. The authors performed directed content analysis of the submissions, using predetermined codes pertaining to ABCDE. At the end of the study, the participants sent in their feedback through a questionnaire on the process and the learning acquired, if any. Twenty-six students volunteered and 15 narratives were submitted. The issues that had been identified were discussed with the students. Feedback was submitted by 12 students, who strongly felt that the writing of narratives enhanced learning about ethics, professionalism, communication, diversity and empathy. We conclude that reflective student narratives are a useful and enjoyable way of teaching students about issues in the affective domain that are not conventionally taught.

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