The Atlantic

Why Doctors Should Read Fiction

Could a simple literary exercise make physicians more caring?
Source: Bettmann / Getty

The annals of literature are packed with writers who also practiced medicine: Anton Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Carlos Williams, John Keats, William Somerset Maugham, and on and on. As doctors, they saw patients at their most vulnerable, and their medical training gave them a keen eye for observing people and what makes them tick.

But if studying medicine is good training for literature, could studying literature also be good training for medicine? A new paper in , “,” argues yes. In particular, it proposes that certain literary exercises, like rewriting short stories that involve ethical dilemmas, can expand doctors’ worldviews and make them more attuned to the dilemmas real patients face.

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