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ICC Sydney

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Patients as Storytellers: An Introduction to Narrative Medicine in PRM

Session outline

Rehabilitation patients have amazing stories, and these stories provide context and meaning. Storytelling is a key part of Narrative Medicine, and PRM professionals gain insights (narrative knowledge) and improve effectiveness (narrative competence) by engaging in the storytelling process. Terminology and methods of narrative medicine have emerged over the last 25+years1 along with broader understanding of the content and purpose of narratives2,3. In this symposium, we introduce storytelling and narrative medicine to PRM professionals through state-of-the-art content summaries, personal testimonials, and video-taped interviews.

Many patients find contemporary health services to be fragmented and dehumanized. We can bridge the gap in care experienced by our patients through techniques of narrative medicine. Narratives are useful in improving the patients’ experiences of healthcare and can inform quality improvement projects. Narratives provide insights into patient-centered goal setting and promote patient engagement in rehabilitation. No matter how well intended a proposed treatment is, the chances of success are limited without “buy-in” not only from the patient, but also from the health care professional and the caregiver.

Narratives open the “black box” or innerworkings of PRM. Specific skills useful in narrative medicine will be reviewed such as narrative interviewing in contrast to the standard clinical interview and the uses of qualitative methodologies in rehabilitation research. The work and resources of DIPEx International (Database of Individual Patients’ Experiences) will be presented. Examples of narrative knowledge, competence, and interview techniques will be presented through case discussions of patients and medical education.


  1. See DIPEx (https://dipexinternational.org/)
  2. Lamprell, Klay & Braithwaite, Jeffrey (2016). Patients as story-tellers of healthcare journeys. Medical Humanities 42 (3):207-209. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2016-010885
  3. Charon R. Narrative Medicine: A Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession, and Trust. JAMA. 2001;286(15):1897–1902. doi:10.1001/jama.286.15.1897

Learning outcomes

Goal: Introduce narratives and narrative medicine to PRM professionals.

  1. Distinguish a narrative (or qualitative) interview from the usual clinical patient discussion.
  2. Discuss the potential of narrative knowledge and competence to improve PRM services.
  3. Describe the potential contributions from PRM to the narrative medicine.
  4. Appy principles of narrative medicine to clinical settings.

Target audience

  • Allied health
  • Medical practitioners
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Nursing staff
  • General public

All of the above could benefit from attending.  The material and approach target primarily medical practitioners, students, and trainees.