Storytelling by Nurses


Do you come from a family of good storytellers?

Learning how to tell stories can be overwhelming.  Start here! 

I love good stories.

We all lean into good stories.

First of all, the stories you hear around you are telling you what is important in that place and time.

We know this instinctively.

It’s understood that the topics we heard in our homes growing up were what was important to our families. And we all know that these same topics have a definite impact in our lives, then and as adults.

That same phenomenon applies in our lives now in our current homes and in our work settings.

Yes, work settings …

This came to mind when I started paying attention to the frequency of scripted formulaic caring programs in my work places and then in journal articles about other healthcare settings.

My questions:  How about the personally crafted caring by nurses that is already happening? Why don’t we hear more about those caring moments? How can we learn and share more about those in real time? And how can we help nurses find and create those moments more often?

Where are the stories?

What we talk about in nurse work settings are physician orders, evidence based practice guidelines, technology, meds, documenting, staffing, assignments, patient safety, call lights, rounding, supplies, equipment, patient flow, admissions, discharges, etc.

These are the things that we do. And they are all important!

But it’s not just who we are….

  What are the subtle caring actions that give us our meaning and identity?

 …. The things that stories are made of?

Stories like:

  • Tanya Rogers was scared and lonely, so you helped her talk through it when you were with her helping her out of bed.
  • Tony Olmos wanted to give up on trying a medication, until you helped him explore the alternatives.
  • Alice Smith cried and yelled through the night, and what you did to help her calm down and get comfortable.

These are the stories that reflect Caring, where heart, knowledge and compassion come together, and where there is a momentary connection between you and another that will not be forgotten.

This is what is behind what you do.

There are all kinds of reasons we don’t talk about these stories…..

… there’s no time, “it was nothing, really”, “it’s just what I do”, you don’t want to seem proud, …

But if these are the things that matter— really matter to you and those patients— and set us apart as a profession, then why aren’t we talking about them?

How can new nurses find their identities in the midst of the hard science and technology if we are not telling stories about the subtle caring that we do? How can we support each other and learn from each other?

Stories say what is important in real time. 

Stories illustrate how uniquely you connect with patients in subtle and meaningful ways. 

Storytelling can be overwhelming. For me, my stories are best when I’m passionate about the subject and I’ve just experienced that passion in action.

You have stories. Getting comfortable in telling them takes practice. Tell your stories to your kids, they love learning about you as a nurse. And … to other friends and family. Then start sharing with other nurses, they too will benefit from hearing about you, and you them. 

Stories are an important tool that show how uniquely you as a nurse impact people’s lives.

Featured image, Enlightened:, courtesy of Jonatan Pie

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