The experience of a Director of a Geriatric Department with Narrative Medicine
In connection with the new edition of the workshop Science and Technology of Narrative Medicine, organized by ISTUD Foundation (18-20 May 2017), we propose to our readers the feedback that gave us Noemi Heyman, Director of the Rehabilitation Geriatric Department of the Shoham Medical Center (Israel), in a letter concerning her experience with narrative medicine and the first edition of the workshop.
“I have always vacillated between my love for fiction and my love for my profession, medicine, doing my best to combine the two.
When asked about the connection between literature and medicine I answer that telling stories is a fundamental and major part of human communication. As a doctor, I know that it is not necessary to make up stories – reality is stronger and more surprising than anything we can imagine.
So why read fiction when there are real stories?
Because fiction enables the therapist to explore human complexity through literary characters. Beyond the pleasure of reading, I believe that doctors proficient in reading are better and more attentive doctors, with more empathy and better diagnostic skills.
I focused on stories as part of the doctor-patient communication, and on training medical and nursing students to read patients’ stories.
My dream was to take part in a course on narrative medicine. In fact, my dream was to earn a Master’s degree at Columbia University. However, the pace of my life was not conducive. To my surprise, I discovered that in Italy, much closer to me, there are many groups that engage in narrative medicine, although differently than what I knew.
I came for a first course at the Fondazione ISTUD and discovered that narrative medicine is much more, that narrative medicine can also be a means of systematic gathering of patients’ stories in order to improve not only the one-on-one encounter, rather also systemic practice. When patients’ stories are gathered, they give us more information, adding to the quantitative information we are accustomed to in medical research. Qualitative Research makes it possible for us to explore what is beyond the numbers.
After completing my Master’s at ISTUD (Master in Applied Narrative Medicine), I felt that I was missing practical tools in order to combine the narrative approach in my daily practice as head of a geriatric rehabilitative department at an Israeli hospital, and I felt that I needed further training. Hence, in October 2015 I found myself in Italy once again, participating in the Workshop Scienza a Tecnologia della Medicina Narrativa.
The workshop took place at Baveno, on the banks of Lago Maggiore, a wonderful place for both a vacation and for studying. The encounter with people who are interested in narrative medicine as I am, and with a team of innovative and inspirational teachers, enriched me and gave me the inspiration and the tools to use patients’ stories to improve my work and to bring narrative medicine to the field.
I warmly recommend the workshop and I hope that in the future ISTUD will devise additional workshops that I can take part in, if possible on the banks of an enchanting lake.
Special thanks to Maria Gulia Marini and to Paola Chesi.
Neomi Heyman M.D., MPH ,MBA
Director, Rehabilitation Geriatric Dep.
Shoham Medical Center, Pardes Hanna