Background: Western medicine is an evidence-based science, whereas Chinese medicine is more of a healing art. To date, there has been no research that has examined whether students of Western and Chinese medicine differentially engage in, or benefit from, educational activities for narrative medicine. This study fills a gap in current literature with the aim of evaluating and comparing Western and Chinese Medicine students’ perceptions of narrative medicine as an approach to learning empathy and professionalism. Methods: An initial 10-item questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale was developed to assess fifth-year Western medical (MS) and traditional Chinese medical (TCMS) students’ perceptions of a 4-activity narrative medicine program during a 13-week internal medicine clerkship. Exploratory factor analysis was undertaken. Results: The response rate was 88.6% (412/465), including 270 (65.5%) MSs and 142 (34.5%) TCMSs, with a large reliability (Cronbach alpha = 0.934). Three factors were extracted from 9 items: personal attitude, self-development/reflection, and emotional benefit, more favorable in terms of enhancement of self-development/reflection. The perceptions of narrative medicine by scores between the two groups were significantly higher in TCMSs than MSs in all 9-item questionnaire and 3 extracted factors. Conclusions: Given the different learning cultures of medical education in which these student groups engage, this suggests that undertaking a course in Chinese medicine might enhance one’s acceptance to, and benefit from, a medical humanities course. Alternatively, Chinese medicine programmes might attract more humanities-focused students.
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