The Lost Art of Storytelling
in Nursing
Glenda Kaminski,
Lakeland Regional Medical Center
Florida Southern College
Those of us with small ones
Once Upon a Time . . .
Is what we think about when
‘Storytelling’ is mentioned
Those of us who are older
“If you’ve heard this story before,
Don’t stop me,
Because I’d like to hear it again.”
Groucho Marx (1890 – 1977)
Concept of Storytelling
What is it????
Essential to expression of the importance
of our lives
Fundamental form of communication
Ancient tradition
Narrative account
We tell stories because . . .
Knowledge of essential life events
Significant life events
Collective voice of Nursing
Stories add to knowledge of
the art and science of nursing
Purpose of Storytelling
Preservation of history
Transmission of values
Building of the community of persons
Promotion of healing
Stories educate, motivate, and comfort
5 Essentials of Storytelling:
The roots of the story are
parables, rhetoric, folk lore,
psychology, & anthropology
Power of Stories
• The difference between being a Tourist
rather than merely a Traveler
-- Stories provide a larger world view
– Stories affirm and validate the ultimate
mysteries of life
– We become the hero!!!
– We become strengthened
in our failures
-- We acknowledge those who
often go unacknowledged!
Attentively Embracing Story
(Smith & Liehr, 1999)
Attentively Embracing Story
• Connecting with Self-inRelation
– Personal history
– Reflective awareness
• Intentional Dialogue
– Presence
– Attentive embrace of story
• Creating Ease
– Flow in the midst of anchoring
• Trauma patient trying to make
sense of the event that
culminated in ICU admission
• Pregnant high schooler
• Middle-ager facing his mortality
since being diagnosed with a
chronic illness
Benefits of Sharing a Story
• Clear perspective on personal
experience and feelings is gained,
which brings greater meaning to one’s
• Cherished experiences and insights
are shared with others
• Joy, satisfaction, and inner peace are
gained in sharing the story with others
Russell & Timmons
Encouraging Storytelling by Vulnerable Others
• There are many reasons for vulnerable
people to tell their stories.
– Helps the patient come to understand their
experience, legitimise their behavior and share
their emotional experience with others.
– Stories of people in physical or mental pain, or of
those who experience illness and disability, are
not often heard.
– In the telling of stories, patients have the potential
to regain the power to shape their own world and
Healing Effects of Shared Stories
Sharing Memory
Connecting with another
Recognizing Trust and Hope
Creating Reality
Visioning the future
You can inspire and educate others by
beginning to develop your own collection
of favorite stories!
• Who told you the stories?
• What made them meaningful?
• What emotions are evoked when
you recall the story?
• Could this story be used to
motivate or inspire another?
In the Clinical Setting
• What learning outcomes do you hope
for when you use storytelling with
Patients? Families? Other nurses?
• How do you assess these outcomes?
• What has the response been to your
• How do you decide when to use
• What challenges did you encounter in
telling or listening to stories in the
clinical area?
Implications for Research
• How does one’s story bear on their
Strategies for decision making?
Trust & reliance on support systems?
Treatment selections?
Response to interventions?
• Framework of narrative nursing
Patient engaging in intentional dialogue
Mutual goal-setting
Patient and staff satisfaction
Bridge between hi tech and hi touch
Cangelosi, P. R., & Sorrell, J. M. (2008). Storytelling as an
educational strategy for older adults with chronic illness.
Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 46(7), 19-22.
Charon, R. (2006). Narrative medicine: Honoring the stories of
illness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press
Liehr, P. & Smith, M.J. (2000). Using story theory to guide nursing
practice. International Journal for Human Caring, 4(2), 13-18.
Smith, M.J. & Liehr, P. (1999). Attentively Embracing Story: A
middle-range theory with practice and research implications.
Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal,
13(3), 187-204.
Sunwolf (2005). Rx storytelling, prn:
Stories as medicine. Interdisciplinary
Journal of Storytelling Studies, 1(2), 1-10.
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Involving patients in storytelling: a caring intervention. Journal
of Clinical Nursing, 14, 256-263.
• Ibarra, H., & Lineback, K. (2005). What’s your story? Harvard
Business Review, 83(1), 1-9.
• Russell, C. & Timmons, S. (2009). Life story work and nursing
home residents with dementia. Nursing Older People, 21(4), 2832.
• Williams, S. L (2009). Recovering from the psychological impact
of intensive care: How constructing a story helps. Nursing in
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