should read more novels to understand patients, conference hears
should read more novels to provide them with a better understanding
of the "inner worlds" of their patients, a leading conference
for psychiatrists was told yesterday.
Reading works by the likes of Dostoyevsky and Sylvia Plath would
help psychiatrists comprehend the "narratives" of patients,
said psychiatrist Allan Beveridge.
at the annual conference of The Royal College of Psychiatrists in
Beveridge said psychiatrists prefer to see themselves as scientists
and biotechnicians, with many viewing a knowledge of the arts as
Dr Beveridge, a consultant psychiatrist at Queen Margaret Hospital,
Dunfermline, Scotland, said reading literature allowed psychiatrists
to engage the the "inner worlds" of patients.
said a bioscientific model offered a limited view of human beings,
and that reading
literature helps to develop empathy.
reading literature one can see the world from another person's viewpoint,"
said Dr Beveridge. "This is especially applicable to literary
accounts of illness and suffering."
cited Dostoyevsky's novels, with their rich array of characters
with mental health "disturbances"; Iain Crichton Smith's
In the Middle of the Wood, in which the writer describes his own
breakdown; Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, in which she describes her
depressive episodes and Evelyn Waugh's The Ordeal of Gilbert Penfold
in which he writes about drug-induced hallucinosis.
Beveridge also said reading literature leads to refined interpretive
skills, with the techniques involved in understanding and analysing
a novel being applied to understanding a patient's story.
Beveridge said that in the eighteenth century it was widely held
that a doctor should be a "man of culture", well versed
in the arts. This would help him to "confer wisdom on his clinical
Beveridge told delegates there was now a growing acknowledgement
of the value of the humanities in medical education.
advocated the establishment of a short list of novels to be included
in medical training.
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