As medical students hone their skills towards precision, exactitude and professionalism, the unwitting side effect is that these same traits are carved into their character. Doctors frequently become stoic, emotionless and even callous when it comes to delivering a prognosis or relating to a patient’s illness. While this can be a necessity when constantly facing the bleak possibility of death, medical schools across the country are beginning to see the disadvantage of this kind of conditioning.
In a glorious trend to re-embrace the humanity and emotion that was the original bedrock of medical practice, universities are taking a new angle to their students’ educational process, and it is a breath of fresh air for many in the profession.
Alongside their exams, reports and lab hours, medical students are now being required to take part in arts, literature and humanities. And this is not a passing fad spurred by the artisan communities or institutions. As far back as the 1960s, schools have been trying to introduce some culture and humanities into their curricula, and universities such as Harvard, Yale, Brown and Columbia are all seizing the opportunity to enlighten and expand their students’ minds, skill sets and appreciation.
Schools are beginning to appreciate the developmental process behind becoming a successful medical practitioner, and that includes more observation, reflection and compassion on the part of the doctors. The theory is that, by developing a greater understanding of the disease as well as the emotional and psychological journey of the patients, doctors can better assist and even treat their patients in a more compassionate, empathic and holistic way.
Referring to the newfound requirements, STAT News quotes Dr. Kenneth Ludmerer saying, “They are a tool to help doctors understand people and their conditions. They help doctors see beyond the disease.”
And this isn’t just a theory anymore. It has been statistically proven that patients being cared for by empathic doctors showed fewer complications and better recovery rates than those using doctors who were more neutral or displayed less empathy.
Skills being honed include:
• relating to the fears of patients
• keener observation
• visual diagnostics
• balancing expression and self-control
These courses are still being tested throughout the medical education institutions for efficacy as well as popularity, but some students have already seen dramatically positive results.
“You have a way to be there for a patient, in a way that you wouldn’t have been there before.” remarked a med student, Ivana Viani, after being asked about the arts and humanities integration program. The program has a long way to go with details like funding, parameters and breadth, but it is plain to see that incorporating a bit of art and culture into the technology-driven medical care of the 21st century is bringing a little more humanity back to the field.