Preparation for medical school and other healthcare professions programs has traditionally emphasized core courses in the natural sciences, and many students applying to medical schools major in biology or one of the other natural sciences. But more and more medical schools recognize the importance of having more grounding in the humanities and social sciences.
Coursework in the humanities prepares students for the multi-layered human and social circumstances of providing medical care, improves the cultural competence of physicians serving ethnically and culturally diverse populations, and fosters the personal and moral development of physicians.
A better grounding in the humanities may also protect physicians from a gradual loss of empathy that can distance physicians from patients’ own experiences of illness, and that is thought to contribute to physician burnout.
Higher levels of empathy on the part of physicians has been shown to correlate with higher patient satisfaction and improved healthcare outcomes, suggesting that distancing may actually compromise physicians’ effectiveness.
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