5 Tips to Help you Master the Art of Storytelling in Nursing







Several years ago, I worked with a surgeon who used to explain the disease process to his patients by telling them that their livers looked like cheese, or their hearts worked like a second-hand car.

The patients were so frightened that many of them probably died out of fear rather than from the diagnosis.


Having the art of storytelling can be a powerful tool that can be used to explain and clarify a lot in the medical profession.

You can use storytelling to explain procedures, the disease process, end of life and lots more to your patients.


When a loved one is dying, you can use storytelling to let families know that their loved one is going to a better place where there will be no more suffering, and they will find peace.


Some people are natural storytellers, others have to learn or improve on this skill.

If you are not a good storyteller, don’t be discouraged my dear, it’s a skill that can be learnt with practice.

In this article, I want to share five tips that can help you improve your storytelling technique.


Storytelling Tips

  1. Plan your story with a takeaway message

For example, if a family is having a hard time letting go of their loved one, you can tell them a story about a family you know whose mother had been ill for seven months, was only still alive because of the assistance of the ventilator and feeding tube.

Having struggled with making the decision to make her a comfort care patient, the family realized that by prolonging her life, they were actually making their loved one suffer.

They eventually agreed and decided that sometimes love means letting go. Today they know that it was the best decision they could have ever made for their mother.

This story will help the family you are talking to realize that others have also faced the same dilemma, and they do not have to feel guilty if they make their loved one a comfort care patient.


2. Make the story short and relevant

Your stories need to be short and to the point.

Very long explanations take away the interest of the listener.

People can only concentrate for so long, and if they are already stressed out, their concentration span is even shorter.


3. Capture the listener’s attention

Be enthusiastic about what you are saying and maintain eye contact with your listener. Avoid talking to them like you are entitled to be listened to.

You need to have something worthwhile and interesting to tell for people to actually pay attention to you. Otherwise they will tune you out and will soon be texting on their cell phones while you’re talking.


4.  Be led by compassion when using storytelling in nursing

Avoid using this skill to lie or cause pain.

Don’t be like that surgeon I worked for, that used his skill to scare his patients.

Some nurses are very good storytellers, but their creativity only comes to life when they are making fun of others  – be it patients or their colleagues.


5. Join Toastmasters International

I’ve improved my storytelling skills greatly by being a member of the toastmaster’s international club.

This is an organization where you learn to improve your communication skills among others.

For more information visit their website at:  www.toastmasters.org

Don’t forget to practice storytelling whenever the opportunity presents itself.


I’d like to learn about your storytelling experiences…


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This article was written for Scrubs Magazine  – Blog carnival for nurses.


  1. These are great tips Joyce! The surgeon was on the right track using an analogy to help clarify things for the patient but definitely could have benefited from your tips on how to make the message useful for the patient as opposed to harmful!

    • Joyce says:

      You’re right Katy.
      We should use storytelling to uplift others.

  2. John says:

    Super article teaching us and reminding us of the skills needed in these special situations..Keep it up you are doing such an awesome job…

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks John for visiting and for the encouragement.
      I’m happy you found this article helpful.

  3. Wonderful post, Joyce. I find your 5 suggestions very helpful. People learn through story so it makes sense to get the art of telling one down. Humans connect via emotions and a great way to teach is through sharing story. Thanks for a wonderful article! Elizabeth

    • Joyce says:

      Yes Elizabeth.
      Humans do connect via emotions.
      Only by being good at this art, will our communication improve.

  4. Those are some great tips Joyce! I completely agree that stories can be powerful tools if used correctly, especially in the realm of nursing.

    • Joyce says:

      Yes Adrienne.
      If nurses realized how powerful storytelling is,
      they would communicate with such power and authority.

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