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The University of Southampton
Medical Education

Breaking Bad News in Bulgaria

Published: 12 July 2018
Association for Medical Humanities
Association for Medical Humanities (AMH) 2018 Conference

Linda Turner, who leads the Medical Humanities Student Selected Unit in Year 1 of the BM5 programme, delivered a workshop and presented her ideas on, ‘Students Learning about Breaking Bad News through Literature’ at the Association for Medical Humanities (AMH) 2018 Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The conference was held at the Medical University and St. Ekaterina Hospital and it was the first time the annual conference has been held outside the UK. The AMH brings together clinicians, artists and educators using medical humanities to inform and improve medical practice. This year the theme was ‘Shadows and Ashes’ after the quote from Horace, the Roman poet.     

The presentation explored how extracts from published authors writing about their experiences of illness and diagnosis can give students access to the lived experience of patients who receive bad news and demonstrate how doctors break bad news. Using contrasting narrators in literary texts and student responses to textual analysis, Linda highlighted how students can learn about narrative, language use and interpretation while developing empathy for clinical practice.   

Linda’s key message is that exploring literature in the ‘shadows’ of the medical curriculum can be beneficial for improving patient care. It can increase understanding through giving access to unfamiliar individual patient experiences and perspectives; make students think about the way doctors break bad news and equips students with an approach that can complement the use of breaking bad news protocols. 

Further information about the Medical Humanities SSU can be found at

The St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia
The St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia
St Ekaterina Hospital
St Ekaterina Hospital
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