Posted on September 24, 2019
Article by Dr Rose Olson published in BMJ, September 2019
It’s not all black and white––can art help doctors navigate medical uncertainty?
Rose is an internal medicine resident physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She also works as a research consultant on gender based violence for the World Health Organization. She is passionate about social medicine, gender equity, and all forms of art.
"A growing body of research suggests that early exposure to art interpretation in medical education may in fact increase students’ ability to tolerate ambiguity. The educational approach known as Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) involves group discussion of art images where learners are encouraged to carefully observe pieces, verbalise their personal interpretations, and interact with their peers’ viewpoints while affirming the co-existence of multiple possible meanings. Research suggests that tolerance for ambiguity is a “state” not a “trait.” This means that our ability to admit uncertainty—whether in art or in medicine—can be taught, and that programmes such as VTS may help us to hone these skills."