, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 1109-1111

The craft of writing: A physician-writer’s workshop for resident physicians

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: How can residency programs help trainees address conflicting emotions about their professional roles and cultivate a curiosity about their patients’ lives beyond their diseases? We drew on the medical humanities to address these challenges by creating an intensive writing workshop for internal medicine residents.

AIM: To help participants become better physicians by reflecting on their experiences and on what gives meaning to work and life. This paper describes the workshop and how residents were affected by the focus on the craft of writing.

SETTING: A group of 15 residents from 3 training programs affiliated with 1 institution.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: We engaged the expertise of physician-writer Abraham Verghese in planning and facilitating the 2 and one-half day workshop. Residents’ submissions were discussed with a focus on the effectiveness of the writing. We also conducted a focus group with participants to evaluate the workshop.

PROGRAM EVALUATION: Themes in the writing included dysphoria, impotence of the physician, and the healing power of compassion. Our focus group data suggested that this workshop served as a creative outlet from the rigors of medicine, created a sense of community among participants, enhanced both self-awareness and awareness of their patients’ lives, and increased intra-institutional and extra-institutional interest in writing and the residency program.

DISCUSSION: Teaching creative writing to residents in an intensive workshop may deepen interactions with peers and patients, improve writing skills, and increase interest in writing and the residency program.

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare.