Background and importance Empathy is an essential part of good patient communication. However, pharmacists often provide information without taking patients’ preferences into account. Narrative medicine is an innovative approach, where empathic skills are nurtured through close reading of literary texts and creative writing.
Aim and objectives The purpose was to investigate the feasibility of a narrative medicine course for pharmacists and to explore the experiences of the participating pharmacists.
Material and methods A 2-day course of narrative medicine was offered to Danish community and hospital pharmacists in Summer 2020. The course capacity was set at 16 pharmacists. The course consisted of close reading of short literary texts about illness and related creative writing, facilitated by both experienced literary and health care professional lecturers. Pharmacists’ empathy was assessed before and after participating in the course with the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE). Feasibility was assessed focusing on acceptability, demand, implementation, practicality and limited efficacy using focus group interviews, participant observation and a satisfaction questionnaire.
Results In total, 8 pharmacists participated in the course. All pharmacists answered the questionnaire, and 5 focus group interviews were held with participants and lecturers. The practicality of the course can be optimised, as only half of the course capacity was filled. This could, however, be due to the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the workload at the pharmacies was unpredictable in that period. The pharmacists accepted participation in the course, even though some of the sessions required a personal investment far from their normal routines and education. The pharmacists were, in general, very satisfied with the course and found it useful in their daily patient communication as it helped them to envision the life of each patient. As expected, no significant change was found in the JSE, but the pharmacists found the scale acceptable to complete.
Conclusion and relevance The course in narrative medicine was feasible on all assessed parameters, even though the course capacity was not fully utilised. A course in narrative medicine has potential for improving pharmacists’ general communication with patients. Yet, the results should be tested in larger studies, including patient-reported outcomes, to provide distinct evidence on eventual effect.
Conflict of interest No conflict of interest