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Dec 8, 2022

Eric and I weren’t sure what to call this podcast  - storytelling and medicine? Narrative medicine?  We discussed it with today’s guests Heather Coats, palliative care NP-scientist, and Thor Ringler, poet.  It wasn’t until the end that the best term emerged - storycatching.  Because that really is what this is about.  Clinicians “catching” patient life stories.   

What’s in a story?  Well, as we learned, everything.  Our patients aren’t “the 76 year old with heart failure in room 202,” as Heather Coats astutely noted.  They’re people, and what makes us people if not our life’s stories?  Our loves, our triumphs, our failures, our work, our families.  

Thor Ringler helped start the My Life My Story project at the Madison VA in Wisconsin.  It’s since spread to over 70 VAs.  VA “gets” the importance of storytelling in medicine, without the need for reams of research to back it up.  As Thor notes, capturing patient stories has face validity as positively impacting the patients who share their stories and have them documented, and for the clinicians who get to truely and deeply know their patients in far greater depth than “what brought you to the hospital?” Heather Coats is hard at work establishing the evidence base for the power of capturing patient stories in healthcare settings, for those health systems that need a little more convincing.   

Wonderful work.  Enjoy!

Many links:

VA Presents: My Life, My Story: George: A Voice To Be Heard on Apple Podcasts

Every Veteran has a story. Our mission is to help them tell it.

My Life, My Story: VA’s healthcare improvements through deliberate storytelling - YouTube

Storytelling Helps Hospital Staff Discover The Person Within The Patient

A few data based publication links from Person-Centered Narrative Intervention Program of Research: 

Unpacking characteristics of spirituality through the lens of persons of colour living with serious illness: The need for nurse-based education to increase understanding of the spiritual dimension in healthcare

Integration of Person-Centered Narratives Into the Electronic Health Record: Study Protocol

Bennett, C.R., Shive, N., Coats, H. (2020). What Mattered Then, Now, and Always: Illness Narratives From Persons of Color. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 22 (5):392-400/ PMID: 32740304

Coats, H., Meek, P., Schilling, L., Akard, T., Doorenbos, A. (2020). Connection -- The Integration of a Person-Centered Narrative Intervention into the Electronic Health Record: An implementation study. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 23 (6)

Coats, H., Crist, J., Berger, A., Sternberg, E., & Rosenfeld, A. (2015). African American elders’ serious illness experiences: Narratives of “God did,” “God will,” and “Life is better.” Qualitative Health Research. doi:10.1177/1049732315620153.  PMID: 26701962

Narrative Methods Textbook referenced in podcast
Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences

A few Dignity Therapy- Harvey Max Chochinov links

About us - Dignity in Care

Research Team - Dignity in Care

Other links:

Curiosity by Faith Fitgerald

Eric’s blog post on Dignity Therapy from 2011