What is Narrative Medicine?

Narrative medicine explores the complex relationship between patients, physicians and caregivers through the lens of an individual’s story. Illness and sickness are just two words that describe a patient, but this new clinical technique unravels the hidden truths behind a patient’s health. Narrative medicine delves deeper into that complex illness story, while honoring the patient’s singular experience. All of us will, at some point in our lives, face health challenges that narrative medicine can help us navigate more effectively.

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Physicians often identify a patient by their illness or room number, however, when trained in narrative medicine techniques, they slowly become more empathic toward patients. Through narrative medicine, physicians not only look at the medical facts, but also use the patient’s story to better understand and treat illness.

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Rita Charon, founder of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, is a compassionate doctor and listener; however, she was not always this way. She uncovered the advantages of narrative medicine and opened up an unfamiliar world.