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A Mandatory Element of the Medical Education at the University of Southern Denmark

Narrative medicin

an integral part of the program known as “People first”, 

A 6-week course in narrative medicine comprising three hours per week, which has been an obligatory element of the medical education at the University of Southern Denmark since 2017 and is an integral part of the program known as “People first”, a counterpart to Odense University Hospital’s principle of “Patients first”, andis a course on user involvement and interdisciplinary collaboration. 


People first



In the coming years, newly qualified doctors will face a change in health care, which is affected by (1) the demographic development with an increasing aging population, where more people are at risk of being affected by more than one chronic illness, (2) an expectation that health is not only a question of freedom from illness, but of being able to live (well) with an illness, (3) massive use of new technology, (4) relatively tight economic-policy priority frameworks for the health care system, (5) increased interdisciplinary cooperation, and not least (6) increased focus on a user-centered healthcare system.



The purpose of the course "People first" in the bachelor's program in medicine is that the students understand the importance of a patient-centered, coordinated, and interdisciplinary effort and – with the health service's possibilities and limitations in mind - achieve the prerequisites to be included in such contexts. This is achieved by strengthening the students' understanding of how people (1) experience life with chronic illness in everyday life, (2) understand and handle self-care, and (3) experience the encounter with different parts of the health care system, including the connection between sectors and the health care professionals.



"People first" consists of two phases, where the student is in contact with citizens and health professionals outside the university. Before the students are sent out to the citizen and the contact person, they participate in 3 support subjects:


  1. Narrative Medicine (2 ECTS) (placed in module B3: Molecular Medicine). In short, narrative medicine is about reading and understanding a story is comparable to listening to and understanding a patient's - or relatives' - story. Narrative medicin is a 6-week course comprising three hours per week. Two out of the six sessions of the course take the form of teaching, with exercises in close reading and creative writing. 

  2.  Health Psychology (2 ECTS) (placed in module B4: Genetics). The purpose of the teaching of health psychology is that the student is given tools to understand the patient's situation as a starting point for good communication between therapist and patient and possibly relatives.

  3. Professional ethics (2 ECTS) (also placed in module B4). In this course, the student acquires the prerequisites for acting professionally and reflectively in communication with patients, relatives and authorities and learns to make nuanced ethical considerations. Students are taught confidentiality in this course.

In addition, the actual contact to a citizen living with one or more chronic diseases. This course consists of 2 phases:

Phase 1
Interview of a citizen with chronic illness in the citizen's own home (3 visits), participation in 2 reflection meetings with contact person and writing 3 reflection assignments after each visit to the citizen.

Phase 2
The students are responsible for arranging at least 4 activities. These can either be based on one of the citizens they have met in Phase 1 or on their illnesses more generally.

Last Updated 30.09.2021