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Keywords:

  • narrative medicine;
  • reflective practice;
  • close reading;
  • physician narrative;
  • patient narrative

Abstract

Over the last 30 years medicine has undergone a significant paradigm shift. Due to the tremendous advances of modern medicine more and more people are living longer with their illnesses. These people have stories to tell, and they want these stories to be heard: They are reclaiming their voices. As clinical geneticists we need to hear what these voices are telling us, especially so in our area of clinical care where cures are rare, and disease states can be permanent. Narrative medicine is an important new skill set that hones abilities to do just that.This article highlights how integral narrative medicine is to clinical genetics practice, how geneticists already employ many of its tools and how they practice it diligently every day. I will show how geneticists can further improve their abilities to hear and honor patients' stories by writing and sharing stories with patients and with each other as doctors, counselors, and nurses, social workers and chaplains. The review presents the skills of close reading and how they improve patient care and illustrates how geneticists can, by using reflective writing, reshape their emotions in order to understand them, to let them go, and to make room for more. It presents the major types of illness narratives whose recognition allows us to hear and understand patients' stories. When used, the tools of narrative medicine can result in better patient care. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.