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Using storytelling to gain insight into patient perspectives on disease

bookAs medical students, we have the privilege of crossing paths with dozens, if not hundreds, of patients over the course of our training. But our interactions with patients are often restricted to the hospital or clinic setting. Rarely do we see what our patients’ lives are like outside the medical setting -- at home, at school, at church, and so on.

But this past summer, a group of Stanford medical students did exactly that. Working with Henry C. Lee, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, 11 students partnered with six patients and their families to understand what each patient’s daily life was like, as well as the impact of a patient’s diagnosis on his or her family members. Of the five patient families, four had a child with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and one had twins who had endured an extended stay in the NICU. The students traveled to patients’ homes, saw how challenging it was to give daily injections, heard about a teenager’s struggles to explain her repeated medical absences to friends at school, and learned how frustrating it was to feel like “paperwork” when dealing with the health-care setting.

Over the course of just two weeks, students created five-minute videos portraying patients’ perspectives on their individual disease. One of the students, Stephanie Chen, said this of her experience:

The Storytelling class was a unique opportunity during my research year to reconnect with patients, but what I didn't anticipate was how immersed I found myself in the project and my patient’s life. There I was in her home, hearing about the in-depth challenges faced by a teenager with IBD — and I felt her pain and frustration and felt her hopes and determination. This was a chance to put into practice what we commonly hear in medical school but rarely accomplish on the job, that is, to listen to our patients and see from their perspectives. I hope my video was able to share a glimpse into her life and stay true to her story.

This two-week pilot course was conducted through a generous grant from the Teaching and Mentoring Innovation Grant through the Stanford School of Medicine. The students’ pieces can be viewed at this website, under Final Patient Videos.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is a fourth-year student at Stanford’s medical school. She has an interest in medical education and pediatrics.

Previously: Stanford med students hone their storytelling skills under the starsLearning from patients by walking in their shoes and "At my core, I'm just like everyone else": An anthology of patients' stories
Photo by Unsplash

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