Doctor-Patient Communication, Health Communication, Research Findings

Storytelling in the Clinic

Going to the doctor often seems like a process of repeating yourself over and over. You explain what’s wrong to the front desk, to the nurses, and to your doctor. Often, I leave the office more confused and overwhelmed than I did going in! Surprisingly, my best experiences with doctors have happened during routine check-ups when I’ve had the chance to just chat with my healthcare provider about everyday things unrelated to my visit. Yet our healthcare system incentivizes spending less time with more patients rather than spending more time getting to know them. As patients and health professionals, we should consider the many ways we can use storytelling to improve healthcare.

A study in 2018 of 102 articles that used storytelling in health care showed that we are primarily using different methods of storytelling to:

  1. Examine health risks and experiences,
  2. Engage and educate populations,
  3. Inform public health practice, and
  4. Educate clinical professionals and organizations.1

Storytelling can also be used to advance policy and advocacy, for conscience-raising, community-building and shifting the narrative from populations to individuals beyond the clinic room.

Creating spaces for providers and patients to exchange stories within healthcare enriches and empowers narratives of pain and triumph that are often bogged down in language of symptoms and diagnoses.

For more information, check out:

Tsuei, E.K. & Starecheski, A. (2018). Uses of oral history and digital storytelling in public health research and practice. Journal of Public Health (154), 24-30.

-Joanna Ramirez