Stories at Work: Writing to Learn, Care, and Collaborate in Radiation Therapy

Main Article Content

Sarah Whyte
Ariella Damelin
Marnie Peacock
Gail Williams
Kari Osmar


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.

Article Details

How to Cite
Whyte, S., Damelin, A., Peacock, M., Williams, G., & Osmar, K. (2014). Stories at Work: Writing to Learn, Care, and Collaborate in Radiation Therapy. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 1(2).
Empirical Studies
Author Biography

Sarah Whyte, University of Waterloo

PhD Candidate, Department of English Language and Literature


Gillian C, Wiljer D, Harnett N, Briggs K, Catton P. Changing stress while stressing change: The role of interprofessional education in mediating stress in the introduction of a transformative technology. J Interprof Care. 2010;24(6):710-21.

Charon R. Narrative medicine: A model for empathy, reflection, profession, and trust. JAMA. 2001;286(15):1897-902.

Charon R. A sense of story, or why teach reflective writing? Acad Med. 2012;87(1):5-7.

DasGupta S, Charon R. Personal illness narratives: Using reflective writing to teach empathy. Acad Med. 2004;79(4):351-6.

Greenhalgh T. Narrative based medicine: Narrative based medicine in an evidence based world. BMJ. 1999;318(7179):323-5.

Campion-Smith C, Austin H, Criswick S, Dowling B, Francis G. Can stories change practice? A qualitative study of an interprofessional narrative-based palliative care course. J Interprof Care. 2011;25:101-11.

Glen S. Health care education for dialogue and dialogic relationships. Nursing Ethics. 1999;6(1):3-11.

Frank AW. Why doctors’ stories matter. Can Fam Phys. 2010;56(1):51-4.

Sands S, Stanley P, Charon R. Pediatric narrative oncology: Interprofessional training to promote empathy, build teams, and prevent burnout. J Supp Oncol. 2008;6(7):307-12.

Charon R. Narrative medicine: Attention, representation, affiliation. Narrative. 2005;13(3):261-70.

Bleakley A. Stories as data, data as stories: Making sense of narrative inquiry clinical education. Med Educ. 2005;39(5):534-40.