Playwright's empathic approach, ability to understand and share feelings of another - can improve doctor’s relationship with patient
Studying William Shakespeare's plays could help medical students connect more closely with their patients, said a study conducted by a palliative care doctor.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr David Jeffrey, of the Department of Palliative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, discovered how the playwright's empathic approach - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another - can improve a doctor's relationship with a patient .
The researcher said that the idea that emotions are disruptive and need to be controlled is deeply involved in medical education and practice, which causes doctors distancing from patients.
He added that the current pandemic, with the need for personal protection, social distancing and video consultations had created challenges to establishing empathic relationships between patients and doctors.
Dr Jeffrey described the way Shakespeare portrayed the world from the other person's point of view, not just their understanding, but their emotions and their moral point of view. According to the doctor, this approach created a space for interpretation and reflection, to experience empathy. "Creating such a space for reflection is a central part of clinical practice and medical education," he stated.
He added, "Shakespeare speaks through times of crisis, underlining the centrality of empathic human relationships. Medical humanities are often on the fringes of medical education but should be central to medicine culture change. A special study module would be one way of introducing Shakespeare studies to the undergraduate curriculum."