Exploring the patient experience of chronic illness through literature and film

Mariann M. Harding


Objective: Caring for patients with a chronic illness requires a holistic approach. To help RN-BSN nursing students in a course focusing on chronic illness see the patient as a unique individual and to foster empathy by emphasizing the person behind each patient, literature and film were used to make the patient’s lived experience of chronic illness real.

Methods: Students read autobiographies or biographies and viewed film about the patient experience of chronic illness. Materials were selected based on the illness and patient issues described. Using the Socratic Seminar, students prepared questions based on weekly reading assignments; faculty prepared questions for each film, encouraging active participation and group discussion of underlying insights. Many discussions revolved around select film scenes or quotations students selected from the text and the comparison to their practice experience with similar patients in the clinical setting.

Results: Satisfaction with the course was overwhelming, with all students rating every evaluative category as a “5”, strongly agreeing that the course advanced their empathy towards patients with chronic illness. Comments detailed students’ having a better understanding of how chronic illness truly affects the patient and family. The books resonated with the class more than the films, as the books had more detail and put the reader into the setting as if they were the person.

Conclusions: The use of literature and film is an effective means to enhance RN-BSN nursing students’ ability to understand and empathize with a patient’s needs and was successful in helping students understand the patient experience. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v8n1p54

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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