Storytelling elevates nursing practice at Massachusetts General Hospital

Nurse Leader Insider, March 27, 2015

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First-person accounts of clinical experiences help Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) nurses reflect on and apply new knowledge to their clinical practice. The hospital even includes written clinical narratives in employees' annual performance evaluations.

Nursing is often called an art and a science. But what, specifically, makes nursing an art? If you ask a few nurses they'd likely say that the art lies in the use of soft skills like interpersonal communication, empathy, and active listening, while the application of clinical knowledge makes it a science.

When I was in nursing school two decades ago, I learned it was important to find a balance between those two sides of the caregiving coin. Nursing has evolved since then, and today there's a much greater emphasis on evidence-based practice, tracking clinical outcomes, and synthesizing data into patient care. Throw in the increased use of technology and it can seem like the science of nursing has trumped its art.

But at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston it's a different story—literally. Clinicians there have been practicing the art of storytelling since 1996. That's when Jeanette Ives Erickson, DNP, RN, FAAN, senior vice president for patient care services and chief nurse at MGH, spearheaded the use of clinical narratives as a way to help clinicians in nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, social work, and speech-language pathology articulate their contributions to their patients, their colleagues, and the organization.

Twenty years later, storytelling through clinical narratives has become an essential part of the culture at MGH.

Keep reading the rest of this article from HealthLeaders Media here.

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