The storied mind: A meta-narrative review exploring the capacity of stories to foster humanism in health care

Rachel Rose, Saugata Chakraborty, Ping Mason-Lai, Willow Brocke, Stacey A. Page, David Cawthorpe


Objective: Healthcare organizations are increasingly engaging the voice of patients and families through storytelling initiatives in hopes that this will yield compassionate and humanistic outcomes. To date, very little research is available that directly guides and justifies storytelling initiatives as a mechanism for promoting humanistic culture shifts in healthcare. This review aimed to uncover diverse research and evidence on how storytelling can be utilized to promote humanistic shifts in healthcare organizations.
Methods: A meta-narrative review and analysis was undertaken including qualitative, quantitative, theoretical, and conceptual papers. Searches were restricted to English Language journals, and no time frame restrictions were made. A literature assessment form was created to guide the review using a consistent taxonomy to appraise each paper. Analysis was done in two-stages: firstly, identifying emergent themes within each research discipline; secondly, comparing and contrasting themes from the different disciplines.
Results: A total of 115 papers were identified for review resulting from the literature review protocol. Eighty-three papers were included in the final review: 48 papers from Healthcare/Medicine combined, 28 from Business, 14 from Education, 5 from Organizational Development and 19 from Humanities (inclusive of Psychology and Communications). There were three key findings: 1) Storytelling promotes sense-making while also perpetuating bias; 2) Stories are uniquely primed to elicit empathy and compassion; 3) Story listening and how stories are interacted with by the listener are key considerations for organizations aiming to shift culture.
Conclusions: This review solidifies storytelling as a mechanism suited to furthering humanistic practices in healthcare while contributing new knowledge in support of developing policies, strategies and research initiatives that account for how stories are understood and the processes that encourage reflection and interaction by listeners.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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