Objective: To identify what students can learn from studying medicine and literature as part of a final-year special study module in general practice.
Method: The project reports and evaluation forms completed by all eight students who had chosen to study medicine and literature as part of their special study module in general practice at Nottingham University Medical School were analysed qualitatively.
Results: Students said that they gained a greater understanding of the patient's experience of illness, as a result of the texts they had read. They learned how illness can affect family or friends of the patient and about the psychological impact of physical illness. Most students thought their future care of patients would be influenced by what they had learned. Studying medicine in literature during a clinical attachment allowed students to draw comparisons between literature and their clinical experience.
Discussion: This study is based on a small number of students who chose to study medicine in literature. The results may not be generalizable to all medical students and not all students may be receptive to this method of learning. However, we recommend that students who are interested should be given the opportunity to study medicine in literature during their clinical years. This can enable them to reflect on their clinical experience and can provide a more profound understanding of the consequences of illness for the patient and their family.