Narrative medicine for pediatric residents during neonatal and pediatric intensive care rotations

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: Narrative medicine is a tool that may foster compassionate and empathetic practitioners. Pediatric residents completing their intensive care rotations in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) may experience burnout and compassion fatigue making empathic communication and compassionate care challenging. Our goal was to examine how residents working in the NICU and PICU at one children’s hospital responded to a narrative medicine curriculum. METHODS: In this cross-sectional qualitative study, pediatric residents participated in two narrative medicine sessions during their NICU or PICU rotation. At the end of each NICU or PICU block, residents received an IRB-approved anonymous REDCap survey. The survey included four open-ended questions about the sessions. Responses were interpreted by NVivo 1.0 (QSR International). RESULTS:22 of 36 residents (61%) responded to the survey. Residents noted the sessions provided worthwhile forums for self-reflection and release of emotion. Residents identified empathic witnessing to each other as a strength. The forum for group reflection and shared perspectives was empowering. Reflective writing was a valued skill. CONCLUSION: Pediatric residents rotating in the NICU and PICU endorsed narrative medicine sessions as a fulfilling and meaningful forum for them to share emotions and reflect on the experiences of their colleagues.

*Corresponding Author: 

Rachel Fleishman, MD at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19141, USA. E-mail: