Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Med School Seminar

It went well; sixteen students and three faculty were there, and everyone seemed to get a lot out of the writing exercise I gave them. It helped that we were working with a really juicy (although very sad) case that raised a lot of questions and offered many possible viewpoints. I also used anecdotes from my own hospital experience.

The students did a great job, and several said that they don't get to do much reflective writing and really appreciated the opportunity. (Various faculty, including the three who were there, are working on ways to incorporate more reflective writing into the curriculum.)

I was dissatisfied with the last forty minutes: the seminar lagged a little at the end, and I could have done a much better job on time management. If/when I teach this seminar again, I'll definitely organize things differently. But for a first effort with a new audience, I'm pleased.


  1. That's interesting that they don't do a lot of reflective writing -- it's at the core of a lot of nursing education--generally most clinical rotations have a reflective journaling aspect.

    For a clinical teaching class I did a research paper on the use of reflective journaling in nursing education -- if you'd like my references or anything else, let me know

  2. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Congratulations, Susan!

    That was quite the case you picked. Any chance you could share some of the reactions you got, or would that violate your class's confidentiality?


  3. That was very nice. After reading the case and questions I'm wondering if my friends who do Community of Hope training would find this kind of thing helpful.

  4. Marachne -- Thanks!

    Jean -- I had the students write a letter from one person in the narrative to another. Most wrote from Isaac to his parents, although some made other choices. There was an especially vivid letter from the neighbor's dog to Isaac, decribing the scene in the conference room when Isaac sees the CT scan. "I felt your hands tighten on my ears." Very moving!

    Several students cried as they read their letters, and a physician in the room expressed anger that the parents hadn't been worked with more fully to be brought on board with Isaac's last wishes.

    Lee -- I suspect this is one of those cases to which volunteers wouldn't have access: as a volunteer chaplain, I'd be referring this one to the staff chaplains, the people who are a formal part of the interdisciplinary team. It's a good case to bring people up against emotions and judgments, though.

  5. Here, we don't do a lot of reflective writing, and when it occurs, it's often presented inadequately, leading most people to treat it with a sense of unimportance and disdain. I think this is in part because the instructors are doctors themselves (not writers, usually), and may be uncomfortable with presenting a writing exercise or unfamiliar with the teaching of a writing exercise. I think it's also in part because medical students are programmed to think in terms of memorization, hard facts, analysis and deduction of external facts. We're not regularly exercised in the creative realms or even the philosophical realms. The existence of medical literary journals, etc, points to the fact that many of us need a creative outlet and want to think about the deeper implications of case presentations. The combined hurdle of teacher uncomfortability and the general unease medical students feel when they're in unfamiliar territory is a serious hurdle to in-class writing exercises.......

    All this to say that I'm really glad you, as someone who's comfortable teaching writing and grappling with emotional situations, is offering this seminar.


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