This week I was privileged to participate in a conference celebrating ten years of digital storytelling at which a book, 'Cultivating Compassion - How digital storytelling is transforming healthcare', was launched.1,2
My reason for attending the conference was primarily to run a workshop on the use of digital stories as a valid source of research evidence. In addition I had a vested interest in the book launch as I had written one of the chapters (Chapter 15: Measuring what counts: digital stories as qualitative data). The conference and book, together, provide such a rich source of inspiration that I felt compelled to use this week's 'Thoughts from the Centre' to illustrate how digital stories can be a force for service transformation.
The idea for the book was the brainchild of Pilgrims Projects (PP), specialists in health and education work-based learning programmes. In 2004 PP founded the Patient Voices Programme, "to bring the voices of all those waiting patiently to be heard to the ambitious enterprise of improving the quality and safety of healthcare". Ten years later, the book presents a collection of views, insights, revelations and observations of those who have told their stories or have used these stories to stimulate leaning and improve healthcare.
The book's contributors comprise an eclectic mix of health policy analysts, social scientists, researchers and higher education specialists, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and, importantly, patients and carers. The production of the stories, however, relies on PP's skill in using appreciative enquiry and non-judgemental listening techniques. The storytellers are supported and encouraged to let their stories evolve over a number of hours or even days, in a safe none threatening environment. This approach, as the book so eloquently shows, both empowers the storyteller and frees them from the shackles created by their experience.
An ambition for the programme was for patients everywhere to be treated with justice, dignity, humanity, respect and compassion. The Patient Voices approach to digital storytelling has gained support and recognition throughout the international healthcare community. Feedback consistently shows they are valued for their succinctness, emotional power and versatility. Other feedback, conveyed in the book and at the conference, was on the power of personal narratives to "heal, transform, deepen insights, promote understanding and enable reflection".