Have you needed to deal with any dragons in your life – or the life of your loved ones? Possibly, by adopting a more narrative approach to medicine, this might help you to beat them. Interested, then read on…
I first came across the term, narrative medicine, in 2005 when working with a healthcare charity. At the time, I was developing my narrative approach in helping non-profit organizations ‘tell their story’ to generate funds and recruit volunteers.
I had been searching for information on the role empathy plays in listening and gathering stories when I discovered an article by Dr. Rita Charon, A Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession and Trust.
It was a bit of a eureka moment as I had previously spent a few years incorporating stories into my work in the health promotion sector, but had never heard of this pioneering work. To my delight, in 2006 she published, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness and while written for medical practitioners, it’s a fascinating resource for any student of narrative.
And, it encouraged me to dust off and build on my earlier health promotion work.
Over the past few years I have presented at various healthcare conferences in Canada on the benefits of adopting a narrative approach with colleagues or patients. And, further research revealed that stories are helping healthcare providers across Europe and Canada to bridge gaps, reduce overlaps and costs thereby improving patient care. For example, check out the success of The Esther Project in Sweden, or Saskatchewan’s Patient First approach.
Last year I presented at the Chronic Disease conference in Saskatoon and had the privilege of working with a few courageous women, ahead of the conference, to help them prepare and share their stories about living with chronic pain. I also conducted a workshop to help patients shape and share their stories for the Patient Voices Network in British Columbia. For those interested in developing their own story around an illness, I’m attaching the template called, Shaping Your Patient Story, developed as a result of my work in this field.
My father died when I was 18, after suffering from years of pain associated with chronic kidney disease. I often wonder if my father and my family’s experience would have changed if the practice of narrative medicine had been part of his treatment plan. While it probably couldn’t have slayed his ‘dragon’ perhaps it would have tamed it.