Grip Hearts and Engage Minds through Storytelling
When my father was dying, I sat by his bedside, holding his hand. Someone, I think it was my sister, told me I should go home and get some sleep. She said dad didn’t even know I was there and that there wasn’t anything I could do for him anyway. I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. Of course, there was something I was doing. I was caring.
Hippocrates is credited with a quote that stuck in my mind at that moment. He said about medicine, “To cure sometimes, treat often, and comfort always.” There was no cure or treatment to be had for my father at that moment, but I was there to comfort. What I couldn’t explain to my sister was that I couldn’t NOT be there. He died that night and I was glad to have been by his side. When I think about the Hippocrates quote, I’m not sure who was more comforted me or my dad.
“To cure sometimes, treat often, and comfort always.” – Hippocrates
That story, short as it was, sent an important message about compassion and the love between a parent and child. What if, instead of sharing this personal story, I had quoted statistics about patient and family centered care? Something like: According to AHRQ, Effective engagement and communication among patients, family members, and other members of the health care team impacts health outcomes and patient and family satisfaction. Factual? Yes. Moving? No.
Unite Employees through Storytelling
For as long as there have been groups of people forming tribes or communities, there has been storytelling. Stories not only educate but they inspire and preserve cultural values.
I believe stories are particularly important in healthcare because they unite ideas with emotion. Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees said, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
Those powerful words speak to me as though she was talking specifically about stories in healthcare. Who we are and why we are here is very much like Hippocrates quote, “To cure sometimes, treat often and comfort always.” That is who we are and why we are here.
When I speak with executives about their communication strategies, they often talk about town hall meetings and huddles. I’ve been to town hall meetings with PowerPoint presentations filled with charts and graphs. Statistics don’t capture the heart. It is up to leaders to create storytelling cultures. One where you unite ideas with emotions.
Get out of your office and listen. Millions of stories are created each day. Find them and tell them so we never forget who we are or why we are here.
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Tags: Healthcare Leader, healthcare leadership, Leadership, storytelling