Storytelling in health care
In the words of professional storyteller Jay O’Callahan, ‘stories are very human’. Real and personal, they’re an engaging way to communicate.
What exactly is storytelling? Well, according to NHS Evidence, it’s ‘the use of stories in organisations as a communication tool to share knowledge.’
Using everyday language and personal experiences, storytelling engages, involves and inspires people. And that makes it the perfect tool for connecting with your audience.
Storytelling is a great way to share information, experiences and knowledge within an organisation. You can also use it to encourage organisational change, helping people to imagine the future.
Interactive and engaging, storytelling is a highly effective communication tool. It gives a human voice to processes, technology and facts. As copywriters, storytelling is at the heart of our work.
For the NHS, storytelling is helping clinicians and professionals to understand the experiences of patients.
One of several storytelling in health-care projects, Patient Voices collects patients’ stories for policy makers to learn from. It creates digital stories in the form of short video clips, still images, music, and a recorded voice-over by the patient. These engaging stories have attracted worldwide attention, and are being used as teaching tools in universities across the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
Established at the University of Glamorgan in 2009, StoryWorks is a similar storytelling project. The unit gathers stories and feeds them back to health-care organisations. It also incorporates the stories into awareness-raising workshops, which it runs for health-care staff, management and trustees.
And we’ve been working with the NHS, using storytelling to share knowledge about a successful leadership initiative. When the NHS Clinical Leaders Network wanted to engage people in their work and spread ideas about good leadership, they chose to use storytelling.
Interviewing clinicians and managers, we wrote a series of case studies showing how CLN members have used their time with the group to improve services. These stories offer personal accounts of projects. They give a human insight into the work of the CLN – far more engaging than data or statistical analysis.
Natalie Davies, knowledge and communications manager for the CLN, takes up the story:
“For the NHS Clinical Leaders Network, sharing individual stories through storytelling is an extremely effective way of spreading knowledgethroughout the health-care community. Polon has helped the CLN to produce more than 50 examples of innovative service improvement projects, from midwives working to reduce high caesarian rates, to ophthalmologist developing new techniques to improve eyesight. They interviewed the lead clinicians in a refreshing, engaging way and produced case studies that were immediately very accessible to read. This led to an increasing number of clinicians reading, using and spreading the learning from the projects throughout the CLN community. Storytelling is a fantastic way of illustrating good leadership.”
The NHS isn’t the only famous organisation using storytelling. Recently NASA asked storyteller Jay O’Callahan to create and tell a story to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Why? Because only a story could capture all the different experiences of NASA’s people and its space missions.
Wouldn’t it be great to see more organisations embrace storytelling?