How are You Using the Power of Story to Transform Care?

We have been using stories since the beginning of time to make sense of our world. Stories told as ‘cautionary tales’ warn us of dangerous threats to our safety. The very personal stories of Josie King, Jesica Santillan, Elaine Bromiley, the Sheridan family and the Quaid twins are powerful testimonies of real danger, system failures, uncoordinated care and preventable harm. Over the past decade, these stories and many others like them have become catalysts for change within our healthcare system.

I have had the distinct pleasure to serve as a facilitator of these transformative experiences with thousands of healthcare professionals over the past 8 years and can personally attest to the power of these stories to transform attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions. Most of these stories were shared in the context of our patient safety and quality improvement training sessions related to TeamSTEPPSĀ®, patient-centered care, and professional behaviors. These stories provided necessary context, instant connection and profound urgency. A couple of reflective questions following the video stories got the conversation started. How did this story make you feel? What can we learn from this story?

As many listeners wiped tears from their eyes, some remained stoic; still others would shake their heads in disbelief. The first responses were usually shared in a soft voice as though the speaker wanted to make sure it was safe to say what they were feeling among their colleagues. Responses became louder now and more frequent; one reaction building on another like bricks in a wall. Then, without warning, the true power of the story is unleashed. Someone shares their own story. Now we’ve made a real connection and the stage is set for experiencing change.

Please share ways and examples of how you are using stories to transform care in your healthcare organizations.