The College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University has started a graduate program in Narrative Medicine.

The Mission statement reads as follows:

“Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness.  Through narrative training, the Program in Narrative Medicine helps doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists to improve the effectiveness of care by developing the capacity for attention, reflection, representation, and affiliation with patients and colleagues. Our research and outreach missions are conceptualizing, evaluating, and spear-heading these ideas and practices nationally and internationally.”

Well, wait a minute here.  Isn’t this what doctors have always been trained to do as being part of doctors?  I don’t see anything new here.

Medical students, nurses and doctors are now being reminded that patients are not just a collection of symptoms and medical conditions.  They are actually people and as such, hand-holding and listening are equally or more important than traditional medications.

The real problem is that this comes at a time when doctors and nurses are being pushed due to financial constraints to see more people in less time.  The patient is seeing the staff and “face-time” with the physician is often shared with the new technology ( as in the new partner- the  computer in the room)

The real problem is that computer programs are going to be diagnosing and “understanding” patients now at a time when understanding and caring for patients, really caring is taking the time and allowing the patient to vent and just talk to a professional that will listen.

When actually listening to a patient becomes a new course or a new specialty, the care of patients is doomed.  For isn’t this what all doctoring is about?  Is there room in the new “tech-saavy” world for “old ways” as well?

I certainly hope so!  What are your views?  Please comment below.