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The marriage of evidence and narrative: scientific nurturance within clinical practice


Dr Peter C. Wyer, 446 Pelhamdale Avenue, Pelham, NY10803, USA. E-mail:


Rationale, aims and objectives  Published elaborations of evidence-based medicine (EBM) have failed to materially integrate the domains of interpersonal sensibility and relationship with tools intended to facilitate attention to biomedical research and knowledge within clinical practice. Furthermore, the elaboration of EBM skills has been confined to a narrow range of clinical research. As a result, crucial tools required to connect much clinically relevant research and practice remain hidden, and explorations of the deeper challenges faced by practitioners in their struggle to integrate sound science and shared clinical action remain elusive.

Methods  We developed a model for scientifically informed, individualized, medical practice and learning that embraces the goals, resources and skills of EBM within a larger framework of practice defined by narrative process: ‘attention’, ‘representation’ and ‘affiliation’. We drew from published elaborations of EBM, narrative medicine (NM) and the results of a project to develop tools for assessment of the cognitive skills embedded within a practice based EBM domain.

Results  Within the resulting model, a tool of representation, whose components are Problem delineation, Actions, Choices and Targets, enables the clinical problem to be delineated and the patient and practitioner perspectives to be concretely defined with reference to four classes of clinical interaction: ‘therapy’, ‘diagnosis’, ‘prognosis’ and ‘harm’. As a result, the ‘information literacy’ skills required to access, evaluate and apply clinical research using electronic resources are well defined but subordinated to shared appreciation of patient need. The model acknowledges the relevance of the full range and scope of scientifically derived medical knowledge.

Conclusion  A model based on integration of NM and EBM can lead to instructional tools that integrate clinical epidemiological knowledge with enforced consideration of differing patient and practitioner perspectives. It also may inform avenues for qualitative research into the processes through which such differing perspectives can be productively identified and shared.