According to this New York Times article, more and more schools over the last fifteen years have included the reading of Virginia Woolf and Leo Tolstoy in medical school. They call it “narrative medicine.” But this is the first time hospitals are trying this approach in residency programs.
For example, for over a year at Saint Barnabus Medical Center, a doctor named Richard S. Panush has been incorporating literary discussions into his internal medicine residents’ daily rounds. This includes a daily routine in which he and his colleagues discuss poetry, short stories, and essays with their residents in the context of their patients. As a result, they found significantly better scores on patient evaluations of residents and of quality of life.
Another example: Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons found that doctors interacting with literature were more willing to adopt another person’s perspective, sometimes after just four one-hour workshops.
A second-year resident at Saint Barnabas, Dr. Benjamin Kaplan, had this to say about the effects of the program on his fellow residents, “Their management of patients changed. They remembered to do things that I don’t think they would have otherwise done, like always talking to the family, gently touching patients, and continually explaining the course of treatment and what the doctors are thinking so patients know.”
If “narrative medicine” can make better doctors, perhaps “narrative management” can make you and your staff better business people too. The first book that I’d recommend is If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. If you substitute the verb for whatever you do (for example, “program”) for the word “write,” you’ll see how it can apply. I am willing to bet that it will help you build a better business, so check it out.