narrative medicine online course

Narrative medicine online courses are hard to find, and even harder to understand. I’ll walk you through my journey of how I learnt about narrative medicine and what it is. I’m going to start off with a brief explanation of the history of narrative medicine, then move onto why it’s important. At the end, I’ll tell you more about what it is, why I personally think everyone should learn about it, where you can learn more and how narrative medicine can benefit you.

In 2017, Columbia University launched an online Certification of Professional Achievement in Narrative Medicine. The program is designed to accommodate individuals who are seeking further training in Narrative Medicine, but who are unable to relocate to New York City for the Master’s Program.

Narrative Medicine is a growing area in the medical field. Now, you can take your first step in the profession online with an online course led by experts in Narrative Medicine. With this course, you’ll learn how to incorporate storytelling into your interactions with patients.

Narrative medicine proposes that the goals of health care include social justice, recognition of the whole persons who care and are cared for, and the development of trust and self-discovery within committed clinical relationships. The Narrative Medicine Certification of Professional Achievement program fulfills these objectives by educating a leadership corps of health professionals, writers, and scholars who seek to imbue patient care and professional education with the skills and values of narrative understanding.

This new program is developed specifically for students who seek ways to bring narrative methods into their clinical or teaching practices. This program introduces students to the principles and practice of narrative medicine through rigorous courses leading to intellectual growth, interpersonal relationships, and personal insight. Students will practice designing and evaluating narrative training interventions in clinical settings. Those who complete the Certification Program gain the equivalent of six credits toward the Master of Science in Narrative Medicine, should they elect to continue their professional study of narrative medicine.

Taught by Columbia University Narrative Medicine faculty, each course combines multimedia presentations, weekly creative assignments, and collaborative activities to build skills in the clinical and personal aspects of narrative medicine.

Offered part-time for working professionals, the Narrative Medicine Certification program is available almost entirely online with the addition of one non-credit in-person weekend workshop during the spring term.

The courses will be asynchronous, which means that there is no required meeting time. Students will have the flexibility of accessing course materials, lectures, and assignments within a specific weekly frame that works with their schedules. Students will interact in discussion groups and forums, participate in collaborative and independent coursework, and learn from prerecorded videos. Students enrolled online have access to world-class instruction by Columbia faculty, career and professional development, and personal feedback on written assignments.

View Certification Program Course Listings

Upon Completion

You will join the leaders of a developing field, studying at the institution that pioneered the discipline of narrative medicine. Research shows that the practice of narrative medicine can improve the quality of health care, and our students are positioned to champion narrative medicine practice in medical schools and hospitals and to evaluate the impact of these programs on clinical practice and quality of care. They will become members of the Columbia Narrative Medicine community, equipped with skills to generate narrative work and to uphold and promote Columbia’s standards for the intellectual, clinical, and research work of narrative medicine, with the experience that can also serve as a stepping stone to further study.

In respected institutions throughout the U.S., narrative medicine initiatives play an important role in 21st-century medical education and practice.

What follows is a representative sampling of such initiatives, beginning with institutions near the University of Delaware, which hosts this website as a community service.


The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University offers a narrative medicine program headed by Michael Vitez, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer on how people face death. The program focuses on reflective writing, including sample stories published by Temple faculty and students, individual and group projects, a speaker series, workshops, story slams, and a literary magazine.

Penn State College of Medicine was the first medical school in the country to establish a department of medical humanities (1967), which offers required courses in each year of medical training. Among other things, Penn State College of Medicine also sponsors projects including art, music, and creative writing; a physician writers group; and an annual journal of faculty and student writing.

Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University has a humanities and health program that offers a certificate open to Jefferson students. Additional activities include a theatre-based Empathy Program, a weekly reading group, and a speaker series.

The medical humanities program at Drexel University College of Medicine sponsors speakers, courses, special events, and a certificate program for Drexel students.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine won a 2019 Distinguished Chapter Award from the Gold Foundation for the activities of its Gold Humanism Honor Society. Similar societies are active in numerous medical schools, including those at Drexel, Thomas Jefferson, Temple, and Penn State.


The narrative medicine initiative at Johns Hopkins offers monthly multidisciplinary narrative medicine workshops (art, music, reflective writing, literature) for health care professionals, as well as dedicated workshops in specific departments.

The University of Maryland medical school houses a Writing for Wellness initiative in its Center for Integrative Medicine.

New Jersey:

New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University has a Center for Humanism, which, among other things, sponsors a Humanism Day and Students for Humanism in Medicine.

The Cooper Medical School at Rowan University has a Center for Humanism, Professionalism, Medical Ethics, and Law. They also run mandatory medical humanities classes for first and second year students.

New York City:

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation “works with healthcare professionals to ensure that compassion, respect and empathy are at the core of all healthcare interactions.” Established in 1988 by Columbia professors Arnold and Sandra Gold, its best-known innovation is the white coat ceremony, held for the first time in 1993. The foundation encourages reflective writing through an annual essay contest for medical and nursing students (due date in mid-March.) It also maintains a database of research on humanistic medical care, and a database of practical applications of humanism.

Columbia faculty also provided leadership for the fledgling narrative medicine movement in 2000, and Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies now offers a certificate in narrative medicine conducted entirely online, as well as a master’s in narrative medicinenarrative medicine roundsweekend workshops, and podcasts.

In addition to offering an intensive elective course in medical humanities, NYU Langone maintains a database in medical humanities as well as a database in literature, arts, and medicine. NYU Langone also publishes a newsletter and is associated with the Bellevue Literary Review.

The Albert Einstein Medical School/Montefiore Medical Center has a narrative medicine program which, among other things, publishes reflective essays in Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center offers Visible Ink, a program in which professional writers mentor MSK patients seeking guidance with their own writing. Each year, Visible Ink publishes an anthology of participant writing, as well as hosting a staged reading of selected works.

Sample Programs Elsewhere:

Georgetown University hosts an online course, Interacting with the Medical Humanities.

In addition to a Division of Medical Humanities and Bioethics that offers medical humanities seminars, the University of Rochester medical school has a required program in mindful practice for medical students and residents. It’s headed by Ronald Epstein, author of Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity.

The University of Arizona’s college of medicine offers a program in narrative medicine and health humanities, including a certificate in health humanities, editorial positions in related publications, mentored research, a film series, and a book club.

The University of Nevada (Reno)’s medical school offers a scholarly concentration in narrative medicine, including close reading and reflective writing.

Harvard’s medical humanities program offers courses, museum exhibits, programs, and a journal.

The University of Kentucky medical school offers one-on-one narrative medicine opportunities to inpatients and their families.

Among the numerous other medical schools with narrative medicine programs are BaylorBrigham and Women’sUniversity of Central FloridaUniversity of California San FranciscoUniversity of UtahPortland Community College, and the University of Chicago — a representative sample chosen to illustrate the diversity of institutions that have such programs. In addition, physicians in Portland, Oregon, have established the Northwest Narrative Medicine Collaborative, and the creative writing program at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina offers a certificate in narrative healthcare. Clearly, this is an idea whose time has come.

Bay Path University’s Narrative Medicine Certificate offers interdisciplinary classes in medical and trauma narratives (poetry, fiction, essays, and memoir); creative writing; the psychology of the sick; and social justice narratives. The final course in the sequence is an internship under the supervision of a clinical practitioner and writer. The internship will place writers in health care and other settings to lead creative writing groups to foster the use of writing as a tool in the medical journey and/or the trauma experience.


Admissions Requirements
Prospective students may apply for admissions to the Graduate Certificate programs throughout the year.

For consideration, applicants must complete the following and submit to the Office of Graduate Admissions (the same admissions requirements apply to students who will enroll to only one course):

  • A completed application – Apply Now
  • Official undergraduate and, if applicable graduate transcripts (undergraduate degree must be from a college or university whose accreditation is recognized by the New England Commission of Higher Education)
  • A writing sample of 500-1500 words: a personal essay, reflective paper, or short story
  • Two recommendations that address the applicant’s potential to lead groups of learners and writers, including those in medically or emotionally vulnerable situations. – Click Here to download the form
  • An interview with Narrative Medicine Certificate Coordinator/Writer-in-Residence

Curriculum & Schedules

MFA627Introduction to Narrative Medicine3
MFA628Medical/Trauma Narratives & Social Justice3
MFA682Best Practices for Writing about Illness & Recovery3

The graduate certificate in Narrative Medicine is designed to enhance medical and healthcare education by giving students the competence to identify, acknowledge, and interpret stories of sickness and of health through close observation of the human experience as they represent and serve our diverse society. Strong focus is placed on analysis of fiction and non-fiction writing. Reflective and creative writing assignments are designed to improve students’ ability to recognize, interpret, and tell patient stories. Students interested in film, visual arts, dance, and other creative mediums have opportunities to explore these outlets.

Using small-seminar courses and a capstone project, students explore the role of narrative in medicine and the vast expanse of human stories to improve their ability to care for patients and to deepen their satisfaction as a healthcare provider. The certificate is unique in its provision of a theoretical and academic foundation in narrative medicine bolstered immediately and rigorously by experiential work in the hospital setting.

The certificate program is open to students at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) who are working toward their M.D. degree. They may complete the Narrative Medicine certificate along with their LKSOM M.D. curriculum. Courses and assignments have been formulated to align with and complement medical school coursework.

The certificate program is also open to students who are not pursuing the M.D. They may take advantage of the vast knowledge and experience of our medical school and humanities faculties and teaching physicians at Temple University Hospital.

Time Limit for Certificate Completion: 4 years

Campus Location: Health Sciences

Full-Time/Part-Time Status: The graduate certificate can be completed on a part-time basis. NOTE: International students may not be eligible to apply for a student visa based on admission to the certificate program. Please contact the certificate’s director for more information.

Non-Matriculated Student Policy: Non-matriculated students may take up to 9 credits of coursework before applying to the graduate certificate program.

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