In recent years, medical schools have embraced the humanities as essential to educating the next generation of doctors. This emphasis starts early, and most med schools now require prospective students to complete one or more humanities courses prior to matriculation.
English courses are often a specific premedical requirement, and med schools may accept creative writing classes to fulfill this requirement if they are listed under English courses in an undergraduate course catalogue. If creative writing courses do count as English courses at your school, consider adding one to your premed coursework to develop skills you will need as a physician. Here are three major takeaways for such classes.
Consider How Word Choice Shapes How We View Stories
In an age when patients have access to their medical charts, being aware of how we relate their stories in their medical records has important implications for maintaining good doctor-patient rapport. For example, writing that a patient “reports drinking a glass of wine in the evenings” has a different tone than writing, “Patient admits to drinking a glass of wine in the evenings.”
Creative writing classes can help you learn to choose your words carefully, knowing they will influence how others perceive a story. Use creative writing to explore the weight individual words carry and how they shape outside readers’ attitudes toward the narrative. Being able to select diction that honestly relates a patient’s story in a nonjudgmental way will prepare you for patient-centered medical documentation that supports the therapeutic alliance.
Empathize With Different Perspectives and Motivations
In an ideal world, patients would engage in preventative care, take their medications and always show up to visits with their doctors. Unfortunately, many of the choices patients make seem illogical in the context of the care doctors want to provide.
Being able to consider your patients’ individual perspectives is useful in understanding behaviors that act as barriers to care and can help you identify ways to meet each patient’s unique needs.
Creative writing encourages you to peer through the eyes of another. As you write from a perspective separate from your own, you consider vulnerabilities, motivations and experiences that shape a character’s course, and you may find yourself better able to connect with the trials and mistakes of others — especially those of your future patients.
Explore Questions Without Clear-Cut Solutions
Traditional premed courses are solution-driven. There is a correct answer to physics problems, and the outcomes in an organic chemistry lab are predictable if procedures are followed correctly.
Creative writing classes expose you to a world in which there is no correct ending to a story or poem. Narratives may end with a tidy coming-together after a central conflict just as easily as they may end with loose ends and unresolved issues.
The solutions to patients’ problems have a right answer less frequently than they are complicated by human and clinical factors that preclude a simple binary answer. Even something as simple as prescribing an antibiotic for strep throat can be fraught with issues like inability to afford the medicine, difficulty finding transportation to the clinic and an overbooked clinic schedule.
Creative writing classes can help you shed your expectations of simplicity within medical school and medicine, and encourage you to critically consider the nuances influencing clinical care.
More from U.S. News
3 Reasons Premed Students Should Take a Creative Writing Class originally appeared on usnews.com