Humanities and social sciences in medical education
Ms Giskin Day - Principal Teaching Fellow (Imperial College London)
Dr Tanya Tierney - Assistant Dean, Clinical Communication Training & Student Welfare (LKCMedicine)
Medicine has often been described as an art as well as a science, but until relatively recently it was presumed that the arts would be ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’ in medical education. Enlightened approaches to modern curricula mean that humanities and social sciences are increasingly recognised as having a role in preparing medical students to be skilled, thoughtful and well-rounded practitioners. These fields of enquiry help medical students and practitioners be attuned to the human condition in all its variety and complexity. This applies not only to their understanding of the patient experience of health, illness and healthcare, but also to their own professional identity formation including their wellbeing through the development of skills such as reflection, awareness and resilience.
Engagement with the humanities and social sciences is useful and important on at least three fronts. First, the products of research generated in these fields offer important insights to the contexts of scientific knowledge. This research is unafraid to ask big questions: What do we mean by ‘health’, ‘wellness’ and ‘illness’? What are the implications for individuals as part of healthcare systems? How can healthcare be more patient-centred, ethical and empathic?
Second, the emphasis in using arts-based pedagogies in medical education is often one of process: interpretation, acknowledgement of biases, critical analysis and reflective practice all help students and educators to confront issues of uncertainty, ambiguity, ownership and creative bravery – issues that are very much in the forefront of modern medicine. These approaches are educationally meaningful because they go beyond understanding the ways that bodies function to support the interpretation of the body as inseparable from constructions of identity – personal, social and societal. Understandings of ways of knowing, historical contexts, qualitative research techniques and how to place scientific evidence in context are all important skills addressed by the contributors to this theme.
Third, the humanities and social sciences are at the forefront of educational research and innovation. Evaluating impacts of creative initiatives in education, exploring the psychologies of the student experience, and designing ambitious interventions are all the domain of the behavioural sciences. Inventiveness and creativity are also at the heart of using games in learning – an innovative approach that several of the participants address.
TransformMedEd 2020 will showcase important and inspiring work that demonstrates the significance of the humanities and social sciences paradigm to medical education.
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