Back to Journals » Advances in Medical Education and Practice » Volume 4

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


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

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

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]