A Vision in Narrative Medicine

Michelle Glass, BA
Helen Bennett, PhD

 Background: Narrative medicine (NM) is more than just an approach to medicine; it is an approach to human contact. The field developed mostly during the 1990s and has emerged from a variety of similar concepts such as patient-centered care, literature and medicine, and relationship-centered care. The method by which NM is practiced and the fields where it is applied vary greatly across the country. Despite the inherent differences, the overall goal of the field remains the same, to use narrative skills to communicate more effectively. Currently, NM has developed extensive roots in oncology, neurology, primary care, nursing, psychology, and even the social sciences.

Methods: Survey request flyers (n=300) were distributed to three optometry offices and one ophthalmology office in the greater Cincinnati, OH area. Links to the anonymous online survey were also posted on studentdoctor.net as well as ODwire.org and emailed to the faculty of Southern College of Optometry. Twelve patients and a total of 29 optometrists and ophthalmologists responded.

Results: Approximately 70% of both doctors and patients felt they had a good relationship with each other, while 22% of patients that did feel close to their optometrist/ophthalmologist believed that better communication would improve the doctor-patient relationship. Sixty-seven percent of optometrists and ophthalmologists reported experiencing trouble communicating with patients, and 89% percent of participating doctors reported that they would be interested in learning new communication techniques.

Conclusion: There is room for improved communication between doctors and their patients in the field of optometry and ophthalmology. This improved communication may be possible through the use of NM. Narrative medicine has the potential for tangible benefits in optometry and ophthalmology such as increased patient trust, compliance to treatment, and more meaningful doctor-patient relationships. Narrative medicine in optometry and ophthamology has the potential for tangible benefits, such as increased patient trust.

Keywords: communication, doctor-patient relationships, narrative medicine, survey