Stories at Work: Writing to Learn, Care, and Collaborate in Radiation Therapy
Keywords:radiation therapy, education, narrative, reflective writing, professional, qualitative, interview, observation, interprofessional
Narrative writing has shown potential to foster skilled, compassionate care among health professionals. We describe the process and effects of a project that introduced experiential narrative writing to professionals and students at a large Canadian cancer centre. Four 90-minute introductory workshops in experiential narrative writing were offered to radiation therapy students (9), radiation therapists (28), and oncology nurses (1). These workshops were followed by an in-depth narrative writing course consisting of four 60-minute sessions. The course was offered twice with a total of 11 participants (all radiation therapists). Participants were prompted to write about their experiences, share their writing, and respond to each other’s writing. Writing was not focused on professional experiences. All sessions were led by an experienced facilitator and researcher. In order to describe the process and effects of these courses, we used a combination of observations, reflective writing, ongoing dialogue with participants, and follow-up interviews (8 radiation therapists and 3 students). We describe five “active elements” of the narrative writing sessions: stories at (but not about) work, challenge, trust, quality of engagement, and continuity. We then discuss perceived effects of the narrative writing sessions, which we have termed pleasure, perspective, community, presence, craft, and collective artwork. These findings suggest potential for narrative writing to support the work, well-being, and community of health professionals in radiation therapy.
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