Creating empathy with the Patient is the primary purpose of Narrative Medicine, which seeks to enhance the goal of both understanding and supporting the Patient on his path towards healing. If a relationship of trust and confidence can be established, it encourages the Patient’s determination to follow the treatment, as well as offering the medical practitioner a procedure for detecting the subjective roots of illness. It offers a truly open dialogue, making for deeper diagnostic potential.
The concept of Narrative Medicine arose in relatively recent times, between the 1990s and the start of the new millennium in the UK, thanks to research undertaken byDrs Rachel Naomi Remen and Rita Charon. According to the two specialists, this new diagnostic tool lends itself to three key medical targets: the therapeutic role attributed to the narration of the experience of illness, listening on the part of the Doctor and medical personnel involved, and the integration of the narrative into a comprehensive framework of diagnosis and treatment, always and in every case with respect to the Patient.
In other words, Remen and Charon sought to develop further the relationship between Doctor and Patient, based on the narrative modality and on eliminating the notion of subordination. Thus, the narratives are created not only by the Patients, but also by the Doctors, Nurses, and all those who assist the Patient in any essentially therapeutic way. These are the most direct and valid means for providing space for the subject’s experience. Abroad, there are already training courses in Narrative Medicine (for example, at Columbia University in New York), which train physicians to use simple terminology and comprehensible language.
New skills are required and can be acquired through the use of various tools, including reading and writing courses. In Italy, such modernisation is only at the beginning stages. In 2009, the Italian Society of Narrative Medicine was founded, with the purpose of promoting the debate on Narrative Based Medicine (NBM). It is a resource for public health, as well as for universities and business schools in the health field, relating both to the various initiatives taking place within Italy and, at the same time, intended to promote foreign connections. The principal aim of NM is to highlight Patients’ capacity for self-knowledge, for talking about themselves, and for eliciting greater human and psychological support from the professionals helping them.
Thanks to Narrative Medicine, we can now emphasise the deep, human side of the Patient/Doctor/health professional relationship, with the aim of integrating all elements related to diagnosis and treatment of a disease, together with the autobiographical narrative connected to the disease itself. These elements render Narrative Medicine an indispensable tool for the future development of medicine.
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