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Writing about an experience of illness in medical students

Authors Hwang K, Fan H, Hwang SW

Received 4 April 2013

Accepted for publication 17 May 2013

Published 28 August 2013 Volume 2013:4 Pages 151—155

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S46261

Checked for plagiarism Yes

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Peer reviewer comments 2


Kun Hwang,1 Huan Fan,1 Se Won Hwang2

1Department of Plastic Surgery, Inha University School of Medicine, Incheon, Korea; 2Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, UK

Abstract: Pathography is defined as “historical biography from a medical, psychological, and psychiatric viewpoint.” We thought that writing about an experience of illness might help students understand patients’ experience and in turn grow in terms of self-understanding. Participants included 151 medical students. Students wrote about their own experience of illness and were asked to answer questions from the Likert scale. Most students wrote about themselves (79.2%); however, some students (20.8%) wrote about the illness of others. Among the 149 pathographies, ecopathography was most frequent (30.9%), followed by testimonial pathography (25.5%); angry pathography (13.4%) and alternative pathography (12.1%) were relatively less frequent. Eighty-eight pathographies (59.1%) showed 120 expressions of family relationship. Among the 120 cases, worrying about family members was most frequent (47.5%), followed by reliance on a family member (32.5%). All students wrote about the enlightenment experienced on returning to daily life. The sense of belonging together was most frequent (38.3%), followed by gratitude for living (20.8%), resolution to be a good doctor (18.1%), and a will to live and be healthy (12.1%). Answers on the Likert scale (total 5) for pathography beneficence were very high in understanding desirable doctor image (4.46), attaining morals and personality as a health care professional (4.49), and understanding basic communication skills (4.46). Writing about an experience of illness allows students to better understand patients’ experience and to grow in self-understanding.

Keywords: writing, disease, patients, narration, pathography

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