Students in the Narrative Medicine Certification program complete five online courses and attend one workshop in-person or virtually. Students may take courses in three consecutive terms or in as much time as three years. Each online course will begin at the traditional start of the fall, spring, and summer terms, and run for 10 weeks.

The program is part-time and online. The courses are asynchronous, with no required weekly meeting time, giving students the flexibility of accessing course materials, lectures, and assignments within a specific weekly timeframe to accommodate their schedules.

To receive the certification, students must complete the five 3-credit courses (for a total of 15 credits) and the non-credit workshop. Students who successfully complete the program and who are admitted to the Master of Science program in Narrative Medicine. may count their certification toward 6 credits of elective coursework.

Sample Course Schedule

Required Courses

  • Narrative Medicine Methods: Close Reading and Creative Writing. 3 pts.
  • Pedagogy: Goals, Methods, Contexts. 3 pts.
  • Qualitative Evaluation Methods for Narrative Medicine Practice. 3 pts.

Additional Courses

  • Narrative Ethics. 3 pts.
  • Social Justice: Narratives of Inequality. 3 pts.

Narrative Medicine Methods: Close Reading and Creative Writing. 3 pts.


In this course, students will learn the signature methods of narrative medicine: close reading paired with creative writing. The close reader takes all aspects of form and content of the text into account—plot, time, space, metaphor, narrative strategies, mood, and more. Close readers can become close listeners, able to recognize the meanings of what another person tells them. The goals are to strengthen participants' capacity to listen with skill to patients as they tell of their experiences, to develop clinically-active empathy, and to form sturdy partnerships with patients throughout their care. Through the dynamics of joining in close reading and creative writing, the course participants will develop interpersonal professional relationships with one another that allow growing understanding of one another's perspectives. At the same time, these methods lead powerfully to gradual self-understanding as health care professionals, teachers, readers, and writers. Such learning provides a model for health care team relationships, relationships with patients and families, and wider relationships with communities of health and health care.

Pedagogy: Goals, Methods, Contexts. 3 pts.


Effective Narrative Medicine pedagogy depends on several related skills: teaching of close reading, guiding of creative writing, and developing of respectful climates of shared learning. Narrative Medicine is typically taught in small groups with continuity, establishment of trust, shared practices, and shared discovery. Not group therapy, effective narrative medicine pedagogy requires the facilitator to have sensible and sensitive skills in guiding groups toward cohesion and trust. This course guides participants in tailoring Narrative Medicine pedagogy to specific learners--health care professionals, students of the health professions, clinical trainees, patients, families, and those outside of health care settings. It will enable participants to articulate the goals of pedagogy of a particular learning project, to specify learning objectives, and to design a curriculum with the potential to reach its goals. Each participant in this course will be required to work on a project to design a specific learning experience during this course, stating its goals, articulating its learning objectives, and proposing a curriculum of texts and exercises.

Qualitative Evaluation Methods for Narrative Medicine Practice. 3 pts.

As students learn the principles and practices of Narrative Medicine, qualitative research methods become essential tools in assessing their impact. The nature of most narrative medicine work - group process around writing, group facilitation, attentive listening, formulating probing questions to move conversations in more layered directions, sharing and responding to text - lends itself to qualitative research investigation and evaluation. Thus, this course will focus on qualitative methods of inquiry and analysis, including semi-structured in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. Students will read and discuss examples of qualitative studies and will have practical experience in executing some of the methods. They will learn how to choose research methods appropriate for evaluating particular narrative practices. Throughout the course, students will acquire the skills to delineate the connections between qualitative research methods and practice and those of Narrative Medicine and to learn how to use qualitative methods in evaluating their Narrative Medicine workshop practice.

Narrative Ethics. 3 pts.


Stories are the primordial means through which we make sense of and convey the meaning of our lives. It is to this that the philosopher Paul Ricoeur points when he speaks of "life as an activity and a passion in search of a narrative." Indeed, for Ricoeur, a life is “the field of a constructive activity, by which we attempt to discover ... the narrative identity which constitutes us.” Narrative medicine arises from the awareness of this relation between narrativity and identity. Our principles and practices of intersubjectivity and relationally, our election of close reading as a signature method, our elevation of creativity in the work of healthcare, our collaborative teaching methods, and our narrative clinical practices all bear the mark of this centering commitment to comprehend and live in the light of this narrativity/identity reciprocity. Since illness and injury are among the most exposing experiences of the mortal life, the experiences that lift the veil on the large objects in the room of one's life, narrative medicine is present when a person urgently comes to face, or question, or embrace his or her identity. Who am I now suffering, now recovering, now dying? What matters to me now? In the face of this illness or injury, what is the best way forward in my life?

In this elective course we will investigate the reciprocity between narrative-understood as the form and means of storytelling-and ethics, particularly in the domain of illness, bioethics, and medical practice. This investigation will center on narrative ethics, a subdiscipline of bioethics that starts with the narrative accounts patients give of their singular situations-the tangle of values, meanings, choices, desires, and loves in this particular life or this particular death-in order to help them envision and then choose among the alternative futures ahead. We will position narrative ethics with respect to other bioethical frameworks, then study the work of theoreticians who have established the theoretical underpinnings of this field, highlighting the nature and limits of our ability to give a narrative account of ethical dilemmas. At the end, we will investigate the ways that narrative ethics brings attention to self-care as an ethical demand.

Social Justice: Narratives of Inequality. 3 pts.


Narrative Medicine's ultimate goal is to improve patient care for all. The inequities in health care access and effectiveness across populations are vast. As wealth inequalities increase, so do health disparities. Bias and prejudice influence health care at every level of organization from the private clinician-patient interaction to national decisions about research funding. Narrative Medicine offers multiple contributions to the movement toward health care justice. Through narrative means, this course will familiarize students with the concept of structural competency. Close reading of texts and films and responsive writing exercises offer effective ways to think together about how race, ethnicity, social class, ability and sexual orientation and other forms of difference (or sameness) can shape interactions between clinicians and patients. Texts and films are chosen that represent rich contextualizations, foreground and background, of interpersonal relationships and dynamics, in the clinic and outside it. The goals of the course include engaging students to contemplate their own clinical experiences, to give dimensionality to "thin stories," their own and those.

In-person workshop. Non-credit.


This workshop provides an intense immersion in the methods and skills of narrative medicine. Lectures will open up themes of how stories work, creativity, ethics, bearing witness, and empathy, while the small groups practice rigorous skills in close reading, creative writing, and responding to the writings of others. The learning objectives of the on-site workshops are to 1) provide personal contact to introduce and solidify intersubjective relationships among participants; 2) to ignite use of methods that have been and will be utilized in the on-line component, e.g., writing to prompts from literary texts and responding to both form and content of colleagues’ writing; 3) plenary lectures from the architects of the discipline of Narrative Medicine in the foundational theories to be studied; 4) scheduled cultural learning opportunities of New York City (music, museums, literary readings) for shared creative experiences; 5) contact with Master of Science in Narrative Medicine graduate program for certification participants toward their understanding of the breadth of the field and the potential for their continuing to study NM after the CPA; 6) introduction to the national and international reach of Columbia Narrative Medicine so that participants grasp the value and magnitude of the community they have entered as certification program students. Participants will be given the chance to present their own works-in-progress to assembled participants and faculty as a jump-start to collaborative projects during and after the participation in the certification program.