Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 231–244 | Cite as

Words and Wards: A Model of Reflective Writing and Its Uses in Medical Education

Original Paper


Personal, creative writing as a process for reflection on patient care and socialization into medicine (“reflective writing”) has important potential uses in educating medical students and residents. Based on the authors’ experiences with a range of writing activities in academic medical settings, this article sets forth a conceptual model for considering the processes and effects of such writing. The first phase (writing) is individual and solitary, consisting of personal reflection and creation. Here, introspection and imagination guide learners from loss of certainty to reclaiming a personal voice; identifying the patient’s voice; acknowledging simultaneously valid yet often conflicting perspectives; and recognizing and responding to the range of emotions triggered in patient care. The next phase (small-group reading and discussion) is public and communal, where sharing one’s writing results in acknowledging vulnerability, risk-taking, and self-disclosure. Listening to others’ writing becomes an exercise in mindfulness and presence, including witnessing suffering and confusion experienced by others. Specific pedagogical goals in three arenas-professional development, patient care and practitioner well-being – are linked to the writing/reading/listening process. The intent of presenting this model is to help frame future intellectual inquiry and investigation into this innovative pedagogical modality.


Writing Creative writing Professionalism Medical education Reflective practice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Shapiro
    • 1
  • Deborah Kasman
    • 2
  • Audrey Shafer
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of California Irvine Medical CenterIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Georgetown University School of MedicineWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Stanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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