“Put yourself in their shoes” - Educational experience of an Empathic Communication and Narrative Medicine course for portuguese Family Medicine tutors and residents

Marta Marquês, Eduardo Sousa, Filipa Alvarez, Joana Amaral, Luisa Pereira, Mara Silva, Marta Goes Freitas

Keywords: Empathy; Narrative medicine; Communication training; Professionalism


While empathy and professionalism are basic competencies to entrustment decisions on Family Medicine (FM) residency, their teaching/learning remains a challenge. Rich clinical context experiential methods are the cornerstone of its acquisition. Narrative competence training contributes to an empathic attitude. FM primary care setting training goals are based on clinical reasoning in care delivery. Empathic skills and professionalism are often underrepresented in curricular goals.


An optional, b-learning, narrative approach curricular course on person centered medicine and empathy was developed, for FM tutors and residents in Lisbon, Portugal. Faculty included an educational supervisor and six final year FM residents. Each course implied two 7h-on-site moments, separated by 6 weeks of online asynchronous narrative medicine exercises (“in a patient's shoes”).
Teaching methodology included icebreakers, buzz groups, short lectures, pre-test and post-test questionnaires, small group tasks, role-plays, narrative writing and overall course assessment.
The course assessment included: a pre and post-course knowledge multiple choice test; informal feedback at the end of each course and an online expectations and overall gains questionnaire.


The courses were held in 2022 and 2023, for a total of 32 FM residents and 18 tutors. We obtained 50 pretest and 49 post test responses, with a rise on correct answers from the pre- to the post-test in both course groups (residents: 71,5 to 88%; tutors: 67,5 to 87%). Subjective feedback was very positive. Simple suggestions regarding workshop improvement were immediately integrated into next editions with benefit. Both tutors and residents suggested a level 2 empathy course as beneficial in the future.


This empathic communication and narrative medicine´ educational course addresses soft-skills competence acquisition, with the learners gaining further knowledge on the theme and giving very positive feedback. Further research is required to establish positive impact of this training on the acquisition of empathy and professionalism.

Points for discussion:

How to teach empathy and professionalism

Educational experiences for teaching communication skills

Assessment of course impact on soft skills


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