Collaborative Story Telling

Collaborative Story Telling by John Coleman

I entitled this post “Collaborative Story-Telling” because stories humanize abstract concepts like “improving healthcare outcomes” and help us achieve shared vision.

Two Examples of Collaborative Story-Telling in Healthcare

Chaplain Asuncio reinforced the concept of a patient-centered service culture when he answered an Emergency Room page for a Spanish translator at 4:30 pm as he was finishing his shift at a community hospital, and when, the woman in her third trimester of pregnancy needed to deliver non-urgently in Denver, about 50 miles away, offered to drive in his car with the family, who had not been to Denver before.  On arrival, he also served as the patient’s medical liaison, relaying her history to the team in Denver.  When her baby was born healthy the next day, the woman felt so grateful that she named her son Asuncio.

When the community hospital CEO heard the story, he put Chaplain Asuncio’s picture and a summary of the story on a poster in the cafeteria and asked, “What are your Asuncio moments?”  Every month, he posted new photos and stories in the cafeteria. The number of stories rose in a logarithmic progression.  The effect on the culture was transformative.  The CEO said about collaborative story-telling:

I could have told people to go beyond their job descriptions to deliver great care till I was blue in the face, and nobody would have done a thing.  Chaplain Asuncio made it real.

Similarly, the driver of a hospital van at a critical access hospital in Maine brought a woman home from the hospital after an orthopedic procedure.  Noting snow on the walkway to her house, he asked her to wait in the van while he shoveled her walk and  then escorted her into her house.  Impressed by his kindness,she wrote a letter to the hospital CEO:

There is no hospital in the world where I would rather be a patient

Circulating her letter around the hospital and collecting similar stories, which the CEO relayed at the annual hospital meeting and placed in the annual report, was transformative because employees learned more about what mattered to patients and felt pleased to have people catching them doing a great job rather than criticizing them when they made mistakes.

Collaborative Story Doing

Dr. Russell Faust wrote that story-telling captivates us and makes us accessible to our patients and colleagues only when it resonates with core cultural values.  Story-telling results in lasting engagement when the:

  • Entire organization shares and cares about the stories
  • Stories reflect ambitions that transcend commercial goals
  • Stories drive cohesive action throughout the organization

He wrote in From StoryTELLING to StoryDOING that it is not enough to say what we are; we must live it and do it.

As always, I welcome your input to improve healthcare collaboration where you work. Please send me your comments and suggestions for improvement.

Kenneth H. Cohn

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Disclosure:

I have not received any compensation for writing this content. I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.

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