What is Medical Narration?
If you’re new to my blog, or the voice over industry in general, you may be wondering what medical narration is. And that would be a fair question. As a consumer or anyone who’s watched daytime television in the last 30 years, you might associate the art of medical narration with infomercials for medical products and pharmaceuticals. But as a female voice artist who’s worked in the industry just as long, there’s a lot more depth and variety to this genre of voiceover than a quick burst of potential side-effects and contraindications for a drug – that’s just one type of medical narration.
Anytime a patient sees a hospital video that tells them what to expect from a procedure, or a medical student watches an animated clip about processes associated with an organ or internal system, that’s also medical narration.
In terms of where it’s used, narration of medical content casts a wide net that spans the entire hospital and health care industry. The gamut ranges from medical narration is used as continuing education for doctors who’ve had a medical practice for decades, to videos or explainers instructing high school students on molecular and cellular processes in living organisms.
Why is Medical Narration an Art?
The art of medical voice over narration, like other narrative disciplines, is exactly that – an art. It’s the tangible bridge between complicated medical knowledge, and the lived human experience. It’s the act of unfurling situations that may have caused an illness, as well as how to cure it in compelling ways; the performance of speaking to physicians and medical professionals in a way that demonstrates a functioning and well-rounded knowledge of the health care industry, and everyone who interacts with it.
It’s the process of nurturing cognitive empathy between healthcare workers and their patients.
It’s the art of telling a story.
Narrative Medicine, the Historical Context
Narrative medicine looks at medicine and its components as a story instead of isolated events. Its telling is an art, a culmination of knowledge and experience that encompasses the entire human condition (as we know it) from doctor to patient and everyone in between. It may be set up as a window into a patient’s habits that may be at the root of their condition, and animation that teaches medical students how the disease affects a vital organ, the potential downsides of surgery, and diligent methods of aftercare.
As a story, narrative medicine has ancient origins, with embedded information passed through oral tradition, explaining which herbs heal what ailment; the legends of what remedy grows in which area. As much as narrative medicine might seem like a fairly recent phenomenon, it’s been around just about as long as people have been cataloging the effects of different plants on the human body.
Medical voice over, or more specifically in this context, narrative medicine, is the art of translating the whole of medical acumen into an efficient and manageable experience.
Narrative Medicine Can Preemptively Counteract Potential Health Conditions
We employ narrative medicine in our daily lives. If you’ve ever heard a family member or friend talk about a genetic history of heart conditions, and told you a story about why they avoid certain foods because of it, that’s essentially narrative-based medicine. By telling a story, or presenting a narrative about a health-related situation that could be avoided by changing one’s habits, the spoken word has the remarkable ability to act as a medicine in and of itself by catching the causes of a sickness before they even have a chance to begin.
Any time you’ve ever heard a stop smoking campaign or anti-drug PSA, that’s narrative medicine hard at work; diligently presenting the story of what could or will happen if certain habits aren’t nipped in the bud.
Narrative Medicine Allows Doctors and Physicians to be in Two Places at Once
Narrative medicine has become one of the most trusted tools of healthcare practitioners everywhere. It not only allows doctors and physicians to be in two places at once, but facilitates a comfortable at-home experience for patients. By giving patients instructions for their post-op care, rehabilitation details and medication instructions via medical videos and in-depth animated explainers, medical voice over has the unique ability to free up the commitments of doctors and other health care professionals, making it possible for them to handle more patients. It eliminates the need for health care specialists to answer basic questions and allows them to focus on more delicate and specialized needs.
The Different Kinds of Medical Narration
Whether the purpose is intended for a systemwide implementation of hospital procedures, PSA’s about drug use, education for medical students or the means of learning to operate a new medical device, medical narration is everywhere. The sheer scope of its uses is so vast and expanding there’s a definite chance you’ve heard medical voice over in action dozens of times in day-to-day life without even realizing it.
Where Medical Voice Over is Used
Medical voice over in this context is used for many reasons in an ever-changing landscape of overlapping industries that can be difficult to confine to a single list, but below is a short-list.
As pointed out with my initial example of where you can find medical voice over, pharmaceutical disclaimers are the most common variety of customer-facing medical narrations but still only the tip of the industry iceberg.
Places Where Medical Narrations Are Used:
- Emergency Medicine: When an EMT needs to act fast, a comprehensive audio file with procedures for a specific condition can mean the difference between life and death.
- Clinical Research: When a pharmaceutical company needs to present its findings or submit a request for clinical research approval, they work with medical voice actors who can appeal to people personally.
- Medical eLearning: When a new procedure’s been mastered, or a medical student needs to learn of an existing one, medical e-learning makes it possible for them to learn about it without having to physically attend seminars and presentations in person.
- Medical Explainers: When someone purchases new medical devices, there’s almost always an accompanying explainer to instruct them on how to use them properly.
- Hospital Administration Presentations: More than medical terms and education, it’s also used in presentations to and from hospital administration. Whenever a new policy is announced, or there’s a change to safety measures, hospital administration turns to professional medical voice actors to narrate their content and enact a swift, seamless rollout.
Who Narrates Medical Content?
Narration of medical content takes various forms; from podcasts to audiobooks and eLearning to documentaries, narrative medicine permeates the health care industry from head to toe and takes countless different shapes.
But who narrates medical content?
Medical voice over artists.
Narrative Medicine Requires Narrative Competence of the Medical Industry
Whether it’s an animated medical video, or audio-only format, the delicate art of medical voice over calls for a voice actor who possesses more than just narrative skills.
They need to be able to speak with the same confidence, knowledge, and authority as a real doctor.
It takes more than narrative skills to make it in medical voice over; it takes a keen understanding of the healthcare industry. In fact, most voice over artists who specialize in medical voice over either come from a family of physicians or studied the medical humanities themselves. The medical field is laden with complex terminology and daunting scientific literature and language that the average person may not be comfortable with.
Narrative Medicine is a Culmination of Creative Writing, Facts, and Tangible Examples of the Human Condition
Narrative medicine is the conglomerate of human medical knowledge given mobility and ease of access. It means more physicians; better patient care and a cohesive understanding of the way our anatomy works, and why.
It’s the transfer of a narrative experience, connecting people from across every wake of the medical industry. At its core, medical narration facilitates the methods we use to care for the sick, cure disease, conquer disabilities and improve people’s essential quality of life. Narrative medicine teaches us how to implement protocols and procedures, take healthcare into our own hands and liberate ourselves from uncertainty about our bodies. It gives the average person access to every ounce of medical knowledge previously only available to health care professionals.
Medical narration is an art because it reflects impactful aspects of our lives.
Narrative Medicine Humanizes the Medical Industry
Narrative medicine is the culmination of humanizing medical practice to a point where everyone involved throughout the process can understand each other. Even physicians have trouble learning new things and aren’t immune to the challenges of a new disease.
Whether the focus is geared towards medical students, healthcare patients, and their family members, or any good doctor worth their salt, medical narration is synonymous with medical education. It takes a special kind of voice over artist to create medical videos.
Medical voice over artists show more than narrative competence; it takes scientific knowledge and a keen understanding and appreciation of the medical industry.
Medical Narration in Clinical Practice
There’s no room for mistakes in narrative medicine; especially not in clinical practice.
As previously mentioned, it takes more than your standard voice actor to tow the line in the healthcare industry. The field of medical narration revolves around an in-depth understanding of not just medical terminology, but the effective practice of medicine itself. Physicians and healthcare professionals the world over look to medical voice over narration to learn about new procedures, how to combat disease and stay abreast of changes and improvements in patient care.
It’s about speaking to patients in a way that clearly conveys how to follow a regimen set by their healthcare provider, as if the voice over artist were their healthcare provider.
The Importance of Medical Narration
The importance of medical narration cannot be understated. It’s more than an art form or voice acting performance; more than a transference of essential medical knowledge and list of side effects or warnings. It’s the difference between life and death for some patients.
Medical Narration Helps Regular People Understand the Medical Sciences
When the average person opens up a medical textbook, they struggle through it and may get confused. And that’s ok – we wouldn’t have medical students and physicians spending collective decades in medical school and residencies to specialize in niche fields of the human body if it were as simple as picking up a book. That being said, the beauty of medical narration, and narrative medicine in general, lies in its uncanny ability to bridge the gap between laymen-speak and the standards of Oxford University Press.
By enriching complicated information with a human element, like a confident and approachable (yet authoritative and smooth) female voice actor, listeners have something to connect to and build a bond with. Medical narration elevates dreary words on a page from confusing characters to an interactive experience that makes it easy for people to truly take something away from the source material. By creating an environment where the content is realized in a patient and comprehensive tone, giving listeners time to understand what they’re being told, regular people can develop a working grasp of the medical sciences, and best manage their health or the health of family members on their terms.
Medical Narration Puts State-of-the-Art Education in the Hands of Medical Students
Medical narration makes it possible for medical students (and people interested in joining the health sciences) to have a state-of-the-art education at the tap of a screen. Throughout human history, one of our greatest endeavors has always been the cataloging, transference, and safe-keeping of accumulative knowledge. And for centuries, if not millennia, the medicinal field relied on firsthand experience, painstakingly gained through trial and error in the heat of the moment.
Over time, we’ve developed more refined methods of performing procedures and diagnosing illnesses, but not until recently did we update our practice of actually relaying that knowledge. Medical narration is simply the latest iteration of that practice.
Medical Narration is the Evolution of Complicated Medical Texts
For ages, medical students had to stare at dreary detail-oriented texts that bluntly laced together facts and the written word. This, given the severity of the profession, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still, it’s boring jargon that fails to captivate a lot of younger students who might otherwise hold an interest in the medical field.
But through the art of medical voice over, educators can now put the content through the filter of a creative artist and capture experiences relevant to viewers of all ages, no matter their scientific inclinations or level of education.
Medical Narration Puts Health Care in the Hands of Patients and their Families
Because medical voice over makes it possible for the average person to comprehend detailed hospital jargon, families of patients, and the patients themselves, now have the chance to safely take aftercare into their own hands. Whether the information comes from a fun animated medical video about how to manage a condition from home, or a podcast that talks about breakthroughs and experimental procedures for a chronic ailment, the effect of medical narration is apparent – it helps individuals to make educated decisions about their health.
Medical Narration Makes Specific Information Readily Available to Doctors
By quickly explaining unique conditions and complex medical procedures to surgeons to help them get to the root of the problem without fumbling around web pages or physical archives, their patients stand a stronger chance of surviving a traumatic accident.
By granting physicians, surgeons, and medical practitioners continued education on the go, they can stay up-to-date on the latest medical practices and provide more adequate patient care.
Narrative medicine gives the physician and other health care professionals the tools to evolve as quickly as the medical industry does.
Health Care is Constantly Evolving
Health care is constantly evolving – the way medicine was practiced 100 years ago is a far cry from the way a physician manages their patients today. It’s been joked in movies like A Million Ways to Die in the West that back during frontier times, a physician could be likely to do more harm than good. And that would be true. Before the internet age and rapid access to information, everything we knew about the medical industry and healthcare in general spread through word of mouth and mismatched written accounts. Not every physician had the same remedy for the same problem, and not every problem had the same remedy. But through trial and error, we found ways to make sure that we practice medicine diligently and accurately to eliminate bad information.
Suffice to say – the way humans practice medicine is forever changing; each generation builds upon previously verified accounts of similar cases that have or haven’t been solved. Constantly adding to what we know about human anatomy and how the world affects it.
Through medical narration, what the average person and physician alike know about healthcare has the opportunity to advance and evolve just as quickly as the cutting-edge research itself.
More informed medical staff means better patient care, and better patient care means better quality of life.
Medical Education Voice Over
The art form of medical narration covers a lot of vital ground that we wouldn’t typically think about from outside of the health sciences, but one of the most important functions of medical voice over has to do with e-learning and the facilitation of medical studies. Many medical schools and medical educators use voice over as one of their primary methods of instruction.
By making the whole of medical history accessible, and easily interpreted, health care professionals, medical students, patients and their families can learn not just from the comfort of their own homes, but on the go and hands-free as well.
Continued Education for Health Care Professionals
The sign of any great physician is that they never stop learning. Medicine is never left unchanged – health care professionals are constantly faced with new knowledge about the human body, disease, management of patients, and medical devices that change the way primary care is provided. Medical voice over narration is more than an invaluable tool for docs to expand their knowledge of effective care, it’s narrative medicine.
Narrative medicine goes beyond continuing education or medical humanities, it’s a transmission of experience. It helps a physician understand the patient experience in a way that a close reading of medical literature never could. It humanizes patients, makes them feel heard with a reflective writing of illness narratives and eliminates the sense of detached concern.
By emphasizing the importance of looking beyond a clinical judgment or differential diagnosis, medical voice over gives healthcare professionals and medical students an inside look at clinical care and grants them a self-awareness they’d otherwise be lacking. When a prospective doctor leaves medical school, they have textbook knowledge of how to perform a procedure but lack practical experience because they’ve yet to perform it on an actual patient. It’s the lived experience that’s missing; the same goes for aftercare.
Health services encompass patient-life adjuncts like rehabilitation, home health and hospice. Narration related to these services informs how patients best recover. Presented material is supported with reflective writing about understanding a patient’s story; their journey through the hospital system and medical services.
Medical Education for Patients and their Families
When a patient is considering undergoing an operation and needs to understand everything it entails, hospital staff will often show them medical videos that outline the procedure and how their lives may improve or change.
Depending on how invasive the surgery is, medical practitioners and rehabilitation specialists might give patients homework to study in the form of medical videos that teach them how to live with their new condition and manage post-op care from home.
In contrast to the content developed for physicians and students, the medical eLearning for patients and their families needs to be less professional and more relatable. People without a medical background need a patient explanation complete with a step-by-step outline of what they’re about to learn, a summary, and maybe a quiz.
Medical patients need to feel safe and understood, so naturally, the tone of voice that goes into medical eLearning narrations needs to be not just sympathetic but empathic.
For families of the terminally ill, at-home caregivers, new parents, and people living in remote locations without access to a physician, medical e-learning narrations are the welcome voice of calm and understanding in what may be a turbulent time.
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