Bringing Narratives from Physicians, Patients and Caregivers Together: A Scoping Review of Published Research

Article Summary by Tracy Moniz
Article by Tracy Moniz, John Costella, Maryam Golafshani, Chris Watling and Lorelei Lingard

What can we learn from research that compares the stories that physicians, patients, and family caregivers write about their illness and care experiences? Our literature review sought to answer this question in hopes that a better understanding of the relationships among these narratives could support enhanced patient-centred care in medical education and practice. After sorting through more than 6,300 articles, we found 22 that considered first person narratives from more than one of our interest groups: physicians, patients, and/or caregivers. We analyzed these 22 articles to describe their content, methods, and themes. Our review contributes a story about both the power and lost potential of narrative. Many narratives are gathered and analyzed, but usually only thematically and rarely comparatively. Of the nine (out of 22) articles that compared perspectives, we found that themes of humanity, identity, agency, and communication intersected between groups, but often manifested in unique ways. What is absent, however, is a more interpretive narrative analysis of how the narratives are written (e.g., their structure, point of view, and characterization), which may reveal even more than their content. We call for more comparative work in analyzing narratives of illness and care, and we suggest that this comparative work draw on techniques of narrative inquiry. Narrative inquiry has the potential to enrich our understanding of how similarities and differences between patient, physician, and caregiver perspectives come to be and what they mean for the experience of illness and care.

Read the article on the Medical Humanities website.

Tracy Moniz (MA, PhD) is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

John Costella (MSc, DDS, MLIS) is an Emeritus Librarian at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. 

Maryam Golafshani (BA, MA) is a medical student at the University of Toronto. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature and critical theory, and now continues to do research in the medical humanities and medical education.

Chris Watling (MD, MMEd, PhD, FRCP(C)) is Director of the Centre for Education Research and Innovation and professor in the Departments of Oncology, Clinical Neurological Sciences and Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

Lorelei Lingard (MA, PhD) is Professor in the Department of Medicine and Scientist in the Centre for Education Research and Innovation at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

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