Hello, Stranger: Building a Healing Narrative that Includes Everyone

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Abstract

The authors use the concept of “samaritan medicine” to tie together papers by Klitzman, by Wear and colleagues, and by Branch appearing in this issue of Academic Medicine on the physician–patient relationship. Practicing physicians and trainees alike must confront the challenge of acknowledging and connecting to otherness or difference in patients and in themselves, and practice based in “samaritan medicine” can help to bridge the gaps between self and other. The authors present three vignettes that highlight physicians’ and patients’ differing perspectives on the stories in which they are mutually involved. The authors then suggest three approaches that operate at the organization as well as the individual level and that speak to establishing and sustaining health-supporting relationships between patients and doctors: video review and replay, Appreciative Inquiry, and self-disclosure. The aim of such approaches is that physicians and physician-trainees be able to ask—and answer—questions about the “narratives” they are enacting, such as “In this story, where am I? Where is the other? Where is the common good? What, then, should I do?” in order that they may develop a robust appreciation of patient interactions and understanding of self that fosters the practice of “samaritan medicine.”

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