Interviews and personal stories: A humanities approach in pharmaceutical education

Janine Nass, Thomas Efferth, Anita Wohlmann


Background: Patients usually voice their problems and concerns by telling stories, as research in medical humanities has shown. Narrative skills are therefore an important competency for pharmacists who work closely with patients.

Objective: This article describes and evaluates an interdisciplinary teaching project that encouraged pharmaceutical students to become aware of the narrative quality of the pharmacist-patient interaction, and to provide students with tools and concepts from the humanities to understand.

Method: Following ethical approval, students conducted interviews with patients about their experiences with medication. Students were introduced to methods from literature studies and cultural anthropology to help them interpret the stories they had gathered and to evaluate the interpersonal communications in which they had participated. The students wrote a reflective report and participated in two workshops (an analysis workshop and a poster presentation). For the project’s assessment, the authors evaluated the students’ reflective reports and their anonymous written feedback after the workshops.

Results: From the students’ point of view, the teaching project improved their questioning techniques and gave them a deeper insight into, and sensibility for patients’ beliefs about medication and their role as pharmacists.

Conclusion: The teaching project suggests that interdisciplinary methods and approaches in pharmacy education can offer a space for students to reflect on their professional roles as pharmacists, the centrality of storytelling for patients and the importance of language.


Counselling; Medical Humanities; Interviewing; Patients’ Experiences; Self-Reflection

Full Text:



Anderson, C. & Kirkpatrick, S. (2016). Narrative interviewing. Int J Clin Pharm, 38, 631-4

Bailey, L., Curington, R., Brown, B., Hegener, M. & ESPEL, M. (2017). Motivational interviewing education: Creation and assessment of a learning module implemented among advanced pharmacy practice students. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning, 9, 786-793

Barber, S. & Moreno-Leguizamon, C.J. (2017). Can narrative medicine education contribute to the delivery of compassionate care? A review of the literature. Medical Humanities, 43, 199-203

Berger, B. A. 2002. Communication skills for pharmacists: building relationships, improving patient care, Washington, DC, APhA.

Bissell, P., Ryan, K. & Morecroft, C. (2006). Narratives about illness and medication: a neglected theme/new methodology within pharmacy practice research. Part I: conceptual framework. Pharmacy World Science,

, 54-60

Bumgarner, G.W., Spies, A.R., Asbill, C.S. & Prince, V.T. (2007). Using the humanities to strengthen the concept of professionalism among first-professional year pharmacy students. The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 71, 28

Charon, R. (2006). Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness., NewYork, Oxford University Press.

Frank, A. (1995). The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics., Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Hunter, K. (1991). Doctors’ Stories: The Narrative Structure of Medical Knowledge, Princeton, Princeton UP.

Karkabi, K., Wald, H.S. & Cohen Castel, O. (2014). The use of abstract paintings and narratives to foster reflective capacity in medical educators: a multinational faculty development workshop. Medical Humanities, 40, 44-8

Liu, E.Y., Batten, J.N., Merrell, S.B. & Shafer, A. (2018). The long-term impact of a comprehensive scholarly concentration program in biomedical ethics and medical humanities. BMC Medical Education, 18, 204

Mangione, S., Chakraborti, C., Staltari, G., Harrison, R., Tunkel, A.R., Liou, K.T., Cerceo, E., Voeller, M., Bedwell, W.L., Fletcher, K. & Kahn, M.J. (2018). Medical Students' Exposure to the Humanities Correlates with Positive Personal Qualities and Reduced Burnout: A Multi-Institutional U.S. Survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33, 628-634

Nass, J., Banerjee, M., Efferth, T. & Wohlmann, A. (2016). Pharmaceutical care as narrative practice? Rethinking patient-centered care through a pharmacist's perspective. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, 38, 1346-1349

Qian, Y., Han, Q., Yuan, W. & Fan, C. (2018). Insights into medical humanities education in China and the West. Journal of International Medical Research, 46(9), 3507-3517

Ryan, K., Bissell, P. & Morecroft, C. (2007). Narratives about illness and medication: a neglected theme/new methodology within pharmacy practice research. Part II: medication narratives in practice. Pharmacy World Science, 29, 353-60

Shah, B., Rahim, H. & Yin, H. (2012). Student pharmacists as researchers of consumer perspectives of the role of pharmacists. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 4(3), 188-196

Shah, B. & Chewning, B. (2006). Conceptualizing and measuring pharmacist-patient communication: a review of published studies. Research in Social Administrative Pharmacy, 2, 153-85

Wald, H.S., Mcfarland, J. & Markovina, I. (2018). Medical humanities in medical education and practice. Medical Teacher, 1-5.

Zeiter, B. & Krämer, I. (2014). OSCE-Prüfung in Klinischer Pharmazie. Erfahrungen an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, 46, 3. (engl. OSCE exam in clinical pharmacy. Experiences at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.)

Zimmermann, M. (2013). Integrating Medical Humanities into a Pharmaceutical Care Seminar on Dementia. The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77(1), 1-8


  • There are currently no refbacks.
article/comments.tpl article/footer.tpl