Then in my most recent posting, I explained how reading and reciting poetry helps the reader-including the medical student/professional-- to deal with the complex of emotions that are not easily resolved by simple reading of prose.
The next obvious question is: how can medical educators work with their students to get them to express-- in a group setting--what it is they are experiencing when reading poems dealing with their daily contacts with their ailing patients?
St. Andrews has added a new direction: using the Tools of the Trade: Poems for new doctors book of poems as a base, it has instituted a program called Poems for Doctors. First there is a blog which publishes these short poems. Then "video readings are made by medical professionals or trainees who have chosen one poem for particular reasons or associations that they explain. Each reading provides a seed for informal discussion in a Facebook group managed by a group of highly experienced medics." (bold italics mine)
Contrast the St. Andrews informal discussion in a Facebook group with the following poetry centered program at Hadassah- Hebrew University Medical Center to "increase student's capacity for empathy and awareness of patients' narratives." Five 1-hour meetings were "held immediately following a teaching round, of seven to nine students with a facilitator doctor. At each meeting a poem reflecting the patient-caregiver relationship is discussed in order to encourage students to share their experiences." The results favored the students' empathetic identification with the patient (what it is like to be a patient). Read evaluation here.
St. Andrews and Hadassah present differing models of how to bring students together to share reactions to poetry. First they are alike in that each has an experienced faculty member who facilitates discussion. The former uses an informal discussion in a Facebook group while the latter brings the students together in a face-to-face meeting held immediately following a teaching round.
Both schools are to be commended for their encouraging students to share their reactions to
The Hadassah method of having round table discussions, where students face each other --eye to eye -- is, perhaps, preferable because it done immediately after coming off the wards when the emotions are still so fresh.
Yet, on the other hand, the St. Andrews method of informal Facebook discussions may be more preferable mode for shy students who may be more reluctant to share their emotions in a 'live' setting.
They may be inhibited to share reactions in a setting where they have to view their peer's reactions such as facial expressions.
Besides St. Andrews and the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center other medical schools such as Yale and Harvard are also taking the lead in including poetry as a means of fostering empathy.
In my next article, I will explore how medical schools are requiring art classes as well. So stay tuned in.