Learning from patients: trainers' use of narratives for learning and teaching

John R Skelton, Margaret O'Riordan, Anna Berenguera Ossȯ, Jackie Beavan, Katharine Weetman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: There is a growing interest in how doctors learn from narratives about individual cases, reflected, for example, in the use of e-portfolios.

Aim: This study aimed to evaluate how GP trainers conceptualised 'learning from patients', and what use they currently made of narrative recounts in training.

Design & setting: Thematic analysis (TA) and corpus-linguistic (CL) analysis, with data collected from a convenience sample of trainers in the UK, Ireland, and Spain.

Method: GP trainers in the three settings were contacted, and volunteers recruited (22 in UK, 24 in Ireland, and 16 in Spain). Volunteers were interviewed and asked to offer a narrative about 'a patient you learned from' and whether they used narratives as a training device.

Results: There were no differences between settings. Trainers described an engaged and personal relationship with patients. They described learning about themselves, the human condition, and about how to live and die well. Their narratives were structured in various ways. At times, they led to precise conclusions: at times, they were perceived as meaningful, but resisting analysis. As regards teaching through narrative, it was reported as commonly used, but present practice appears ad hoc rather than planned.

Discussion: The lack of difference between settings suggests a degree of commonality about how trainers perceive learning and teaching in the areas explored, but cannot be generalised further. The level of personal engagement was more than anticipated, and suggests the label 'doctor-patient relationship', as the term is used, may not be adequate to describe the nature of some interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)bjgpopen17X100581
JournalBJGP Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2017


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