The role of poetry and prose in medical education: the pen as mighty as the scalpel?

Frank J. Wolters*, Marjo Wijnen-Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The current medical students’ training on communication skills does not completely fulfil its purpose, since it often lacks attention to the various aspects essential for developing an empathic capacity. Besides having an active component in empathy, cognitive and affective aspects are of equal importance. Integration of arts and humanities courses into the curriculum might bridge this gap. Empathy results mainly from recognition and acknowledgement of a wide spectrum of emotions in patients, their relatives and doctors themselves. Artistic forms of reflection can promote insight into these emotions, complementary to the current teachings which focus on the active component of empathy. Based on several psychological and didactic views, as well as multicentre experience mainly from the United Kingdom and United States, poetry and prose can contribute to sustained development of empathy in medical students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-50
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012, The Author(s).


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