[00:00:00] This is Nurses’ Voices. Nurses’ voices is supported by the Canadian Nurses Foundation and by the Canadian Nurses Association.
Gail Donner: [00:00:13] Welcome to Nurses’ Voices. I’m Gail Donner and
Mary Wheeler: [00:00:17] I’m Mary Wheeler.
Gail Donner: [00:00:18] And we are your Co-Hosts. Nurses’ Voices is a place and space for nurses to tell their stories and an opportunity for nurses to hear from other nurses. A, kind of— by nurses — for nurses — series. A space for us to learn from each other and to support each other.
It’s intended to give voice to nurses and not just listen to nurses voices. To hear nurses from across Canada, from diverse settings and in diverse roles. And mostly it’s about what nurses want to tell us about their practice, their experience, their expertise, and their careers.
We’ve spent the last little while meeting incredible nurses across Canada with interesting stories to tell. I wish we could feature everyone we’ve met, but we’ve selected a few and hope you enjoy listening to them.
Mary Wheeler: [00:01:17] There are a lot of stories told about nurses — in fiction, in the movies, by other professions, but to hear the voices of nurses, nurses need to tell their own stories. They need to tell what it’s like being a nurse, the opportunities, the challenges, the joys, and the disappointments.
They have to talk about what they’re learning and what they’re learning about themselves and about nursing on today’s inaugural episode as a lead into nurses’ voices, we’ve decided to talk to two nurses who are using storytelling in their practice. Our first guest is Chantalle Clarkin. Who’s a registered nurse and has a PhD she’s project scientist at the virtual mental health and outreach at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. What’s interesting is that one of her areas of research is examining the importance and value in storytelling for nurses. And we have Chantel Antone, who’s a registered nurse and has just finished her master’s in professional education. She’s an indigenous nurse navigator with the Southwest regional cancer program, which is part of London health sciences center in London, Ontario. She uses storytelling in her life and in her practice.
Chantalle, could we start with you? Why is storytelling so important?
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:02:37] For a lot of reasons storytelling is important and even more so now I would say that it has been because we’re really living through this historic moment. We’re in the midst of humanitarian crises and nurses are really at the center of that.
So I think that storytelling can be a way to bridge a lot of the gaps that we’re seeing and they can help to educate, to encourage it can provide a snapshot of our daily lives. It can also help to build empathy and really seeing the value in our stories. So not just having stories told about us, but having that, um, ability to share our own stories as nurses, as a way of reflecting and connecting. The storytelling, I think can add a lot, especially during COVID 19.
Mary Wheeler: [00:03:22] So in your research, what are nurses saying or how are they using storytelling?
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:03:29] How we learn about taking care of a patient, uh, especially as nurses, how we’ve learned to honor, not just the physical, but all of the other aspects, the emotional, the spiritual, the psychosocial needs.
In this time when we’re simultaneously healthcare providers, but also in essence patients as well, we’re living through something where we’re having a shared sense of vulnerability. You know, you leave your shifts, um, and you leave your patients behind, but you you enter back into the world where you yourself are vulnerable and nurses are really feeling a need to connect via story so that it can be something that really helps build that emotional connection at a time when they are still quite isolated, even if they are working. So really that it they’ve seen. We’ve seen the prominence of storytelling coming back as a way to reflect and almost act as a therapeutic tool throughout this time.
Mary Wheeler: [00:04:21] You’re talking about your research in storytelling and Chantel you’re using storytelling in your practice. Can you talk a bit about that?
Chantel Antone: [00:04:30] Using storytelling has really been the tool that I’ve been using throughout my practice to help educate colleagues. And, it’s also an opportunity when we’re doing patient rounds to really just share the stories of one of my own experience, but the experiences that I’ve had walking beside my patients and navigating them through the health system. It gives us that personal insight that helps us be connected to the people that we’re working with and that we’re working for. So that’s really the piece that makes that connection between two people, creating a relationship in vulnerable situations.
So sharing our stories helps to facilitate therapeutic relationships. It helps to address the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of patients wellness and provides a lens to holistic healing.
Gail Donner: [00:05:30] But you, you made a comment about it, your own experience. And I’m wondering maybe you could talk a little bit about how you integrate who you are with what you want to do to help your clients and patients.
Chantel Antone: [00:05:47] That’s really the beauty of being an indigenous navigator because we’re really a unique role that’s been around for about a good 10 years, but it’s still pretty new. Being an indigenous woman, living in the indigenous community and supporting patients who also come from the local communities that I service.
There’s an unspoken connection that we have in terms of the lived experiences that we’ve had and the history that we’ve grown up in. So sharing my story with patients and allowing that space for them to share as well so that we can create those relationships that will help facilitate an understanding and education and learning on the provider side, helping to understand the situations.
And really it’s just being that person that walks beside someone, having the knowledge, you know, that I have of, of really the two worlds of walking in the medical biomedical world. And then walking in the indigenous holistic lens of addressing the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. It’s really just a connection piece, you know, creating those relationships where it’s going to be built on trust.
And, uh, historically that relationship has been strained for indigenous people.
Mary Wheeler: [00:07:07] What you’re saying, Chantel is so, so significant. And then I, I’m looking at Chantalle and your area of research and storytelling. So you’re doing research on the importance, Chantel, you’re talking about how it’s so important in your practice.
Why don’t we see more of this going on in nursing?
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:07:27] I think that storytelling is a skill so much of what we do in nursing practice, even with handover and with our bonds that we build as nurses working together. I think so much of that is grounded in storytelling, but I think for some reason it stops there.
I don’t, sadly, hear a lot of nurses telling stories beyond, you know, really bridging that. I hear a lot of stories told about nurses, but. Far less nurses telling their own stories. And I think that really there is a place for storytelling as advocacy and storytelling is learning and also as a way to capture our own heritage and our own culture and to, to share that generation to generation.
When I think about some of the most valuable experiences I had with my preceptor, You know, I, I will never remember the IV rates. She taught me or the procedures, but the stories that she told me when I was starting out as a novice nurse and I was so hungry for experience, I carry those stories in my heart till today and I use them when I teach.
So there really is something powerful that can transcend time with story. And I hope that as, as a profession, we really grasp it and take it up in a way that can move more to an advocacy space, even.
Gail Donner: [00:08:42] So maybe both, of you would like to comment, but I’ll, I’ll talk to Chantel first and, and see.
It strikes me, and maybe because I spent most of my career being an educator, that we spend too much time just listening to you, kind of depersonalizing the nurse. Don’t get too close. Don’t talk about yourself, this is a professional relationship, but you know what I’m talking about, so I don’t need to go further. So I guess I’m interested in also in knowing.
How do we change that? How do we capitalize on Chantel what you were talking about, which is kind of being close to sharing who I am with who they are to enable them, because it’s an enabling behavior that you’re describing, helping the other be, whatever it is they’re supposed to be. You want to be.
Chantel Antone: [00:09:45] Yeah. I think a lot of what you’re speaking to is. Along the lines of when we’re caring for our clients or our patients, we’re in that professional practice role where we put that boundary on to say, okay, this is as far as I’m going to go to show my, whether we want to call it vulnerability, you’re to relate.
And I believe that’s where the connection happens when you can show patients that you’re vulnerable as well. And, you know, as, as, as providers, you know, We do know a lot of things. Um, but the patients know more about themselves than we ever will. And I share that a lot with, with patients that I asked them, I’ll say, you know, you know, your body best.
I can only tell you from a professional practice standpoint, this is what my assessment would suggest that I do. And I’m just going to like thinking back now, and I’m having this kind of this reflection, what is the reason why I can have those good connections and those good relationships. And I do believe that’s what it is.
It’s that piece about being vulnerable with them.
Gail Donner: [00:10:50] So a lot of similarities with what happens in mental health. I was thinking that’s how I started my career in nursing was in mental health. So Chantelle, I wonder because this notion of the vulnerability and the power over, instead of the enabling power of the other, whatever we want to call it, I wonder if you have any comments, just in response to what Chantalle was talking about.
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:11:16] Yeah, absolutely. So I think all healthcare environments or most of them, um, I would say act in a number of ways to disempower or to separate, like when you enter the hospital, you are no longer the person you are now, the patient and that realm of the patient can, it is an extremely frightening realm. And I think that one of the really interesting things Chantalle touched on is this notion of like a dual lens.
So if you’ve experienced, so being a healthcare provider gives you one lens. If you’ve experienced healthcare or you’re, you’ve been a caregiver or your family, has, it gives you a different viewpoint of healthcare interactions. And I know for me, it has made me aware of the immense amount of privilege I carry as a healthcare provider that I think I have taken for granted that my patients don’t carry, you know, in terms of the language we use and our comfort in healthcare spaces and all of the little actions we take that make us so at home, within a healthcare environment that are completely new to the patient in front of us.
So I think that relating, um, in a way that maybe through story or just showing your human side can be a way to build shared understanding in a situation where everything is scary, or everything is unknown or uncertain. Um, especially as it is right now, where there are no caregivers for the most part, the bedside, it just the patient with a phone.
So I think that sometimes having that other point of view kind of gives you a bit of a reality shake to think that so many things that I took for granted that were universal experiences really aren’t. And I think if I hadn’t listened to some of those stories, I wouldn’t have gotten to that point of realization.
Mary Wheeler: [00:13:00] What needs to happen if we want to embed more opportunities for storytelling in nursing? I think what we’re trying to attempt to do through Nurses’ Voices is one way, to listen to nurses across Canada, to tell their story from their specific vantage points. But. What else?
Chantel Antone: [00:13:22] You know, just finishing up my master’s program. I began to see it unfold right before my eyes, that this was like you had mentioned, you know, the title of my project was “The Story That I Tell”, and it was navigating healthcare spaces. And I feel like if we held a space for them to make it part of the culture, that we can talk about our experiences in the healthcare system.
We carry so many experiences and we keep them bottled in and that’s just kind of the nature of it. That’s just the culture of it is we see so many things that we don’t really have an opportunity to debrief to, yeah we have rounds and those sorts of things and team huddles and that sort of thing, but we’re just like, we’re just so task oriented, like go! go! go!, the person piece is somewhat missing from it.
And so when I was able to write my paper, it was kind of like, I was just, I just. The flood gates just came open. And I just, I just said, “this is how I feel”, and “this is what I’ve experienced”, and “this is what I’ve seen”, and “this is how I felt”. And then I made some recommendations about the things that I experienced.
And so it really was, uh, it really was an opportunity for me as a person to grow and as a nurse to grow and… so I feel like if we could do that in nursing, like across the board, and I know it’s difficult when we’re, you know, when our, you know, when our colleagues are working in high paced, you know, environments, like that’s a little difficult to do, but I think if we can start to shift the culture to say, yeah, you know, we need to, you know, maybe we do need that team huddle that’s a little bit longer than 10 minutes in the morning and we give it just that little bit of extra to just say, Hey, you know, what, how could I help you today in, you know, whatever it might be.
Mary Wheeler: [00:15:09] You’re bang on. I just had a conversation recently with a nurse who again, came off a shift and there was no opportunity, not to talk about the patients, but to talk about how they were feeling and realizing that we need to be spending more time doing that.
What about you Chantalle?
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:15:27] So I heard so many amazing things in what Chantel was sharing about, um, sort of that, what I mentioned with like the therapeutic practice of stories and that sometimes having a safe space to reflect might even be a journal that you keep for yourself. And some stories you may not share may not be ready to share, but just the, the exercise of reflecting I think, is critically important.
Especially at times when healthcare is stretched and, you know, everyone’s under an incredible amount of stress that, that. It’s something you can do for yourself as an act of self care, just even collecting those stories and recording those experiences for yourself, I think is a first step.
Um, I think also seeing the value in your story is something that is really important as well.
So not just to your own self care, but potentially for others. Stories shape how we see the world stories, shape, how we make meaning. And I think that stories can be an invitation to look at a situation in a new way. Which I think is incredibly powerful. So I think making space and holding space and honoring stories for what they can bring, um, and creating opportunities for nurses to share their stories and creating communities of compassion around storytelling, where there is that openness to connect in a way that is very human around the sharing of experience. And I think that some of those skills are skills that maybe could be taught. Like I didn’t learn about storytelling when I trained as a nurse or the value of it, or how to do or what not to do and how to share a story, but not break confidentiality and the implications of social media.
Like there’s a lot of things to consider when you consider how storytelling plays as part of your clinical and your personal practice. Um, and I think there’s a lot of room to grow, but I think that it is something that we really need to invest in, um, as nurses and not to carry so much inside because that can, that can really lead to some burnout, um, and can make you forget the roots of why you became a nurse in the beginning.
So I think story can help you connect emotionally back to your own roots in a way that could be helpful.
Gail Donner: [00:17:39] I you you’ve hit on so many things. I feel like I stay here the whole evening and because you’re talking so much about permission—giving each other permission to be the person we are in as a, as a, as a means to help the other, not in the selfish way, but in more of a giving way.
Chantel Antone: [00:18:06] Right. To hold that space for people to share and be, and be people that we’re not robots. Right. We need to be people too. And I think when we have that connection in our job and in our personal life, it will make our job more fulfilling.
Chantalle Clarkin: [00:18:19] Um, so to pick up on what Chantalle had to say about how enriching, you know, that that being vulnerable or being human or being the person, not just the professional, you know, or the person, not just the patient. I think that if we shared our stories, our patients would become more aware of how critically important they are to us as nurses.
And I think that that would help dispel some of that thought that I’m just a number. Because they are so important to us. And I think that sometimes those stories, not details about patients, you know, hospital stays or anything like that, but just the relationships we have with our patients that we carry in our hearts that keep us going.
Um, I think some of that is lost. Um, and so I think what’s interesting about the space you’re creating. Is that really creating a community of compassion, I think will help and be restorative. Um, for nurses who are working very hard across a variety of practice contexts who, you know, may be experiencing grief and loss professionally and personally right now.
And that the pandemic has magnified a lot of the issues within our health, within our world systems, but definitely within our health systems as well. And I really liked what Chantel said about this maybe being an opportunity to look at what we do and to do it differently. And I think that setting up platforms like this that are supportive and that, you know, really send the message that your stories have value.
Your story is we want to hear them. We want to hear the good, the bad, the frustration we want to hear. What’s real to you right now, and creating a safe space for the sharing of diverse experiences. I think that that’s invaluable.
Mary Wheeler: [00:20:06] That’s …beautiful.
Um, you know, I mean, I think both of you have just sort of brought us full circle in this conversation as to what I think Gail and I that’s our intention. And I think what will be a reminder of listening to your voices each time we start another episode to say, Are we honoring, are we providing the space and that we’re doing it with compassion?
And what I also like is that giving nurses the permission to talk about their patients in a way that not, um, not breaks confidentiality, but embracing their patients. That that’s my, that’s my world. This is, and this is why I’m doing it.
Gail Donner: [00:20:53] Amazing. First of all, I just want to say, I found it a privilege to be here in the virtual room with both of you and be able to listen to you and aside from that, I, I, it helped me center on, so what’s my purpose.
In [Right] Nurses’ Voices [Yep. Yep.] So thank you for that.
Mary Wheeler: [00:21:16] So with that, we’ll bring a close to this episode of Nurses’ Voices. And once again, I’d like to thank Chantalle Clarkin and Chantel Antone and one thought I’m just. Maybe when we’re finished all these 12 episodes, I think we’re going to invite you back and maybe have a debrief.
What have we discovered and what we can share with you, if you’re willing to do that, we’re willing to have you, how does that sound?
Chantel Antone: [00:21:45] That sounds amazing.
Mary Wheeler: [00:21:48] Boy Gail, that was a great way to start Nurses’ Voices. Um, there are some takeaways for me. The first one was is that we need to really make storytelling part of the culture that nurses can talk about their experiences in health, in the healthcare system.
So that’s, that’s important. We also need to make a space and be able to hold the space and honor these stories that it is that we’re, we’re really being intentional about storytelling. And the third, which I had never really thought about is that storytelling is a skill. It’s a therapeutic intervention.
For both nurses and the client. And it’s interesting, there’s a lot of talk nowadays about physicians using storytelling with patients, but where do we hear about listening to nurses telling their story? So these are skills I think, and I think it was Chantalle. Who’s talked about it. They could be taught and then there’s a role for nursing education.
So there was a lot, a lot in that conversation with Chantalle and Chantel. What about you?
Gail Donner: [00:22:54] Well, you’re right. I, I like, uh, I like what you’ve said I’ll add a couple of things, maybe one of the things, and I think it builds on what you said. One of the things that impressed me is storytelling is an opportunity to reflect.
We talk a lot about that, but I’m not sure we know always how to do it. So I think. Storytelling is an opportunity to reflect on your practice and reflect on yourself and how you are as a nurse. I think the, maybe that’s related to the second thing I might say, which is it’s a real good opportunity to become more authentic.
Both with your patients and clients and their families, but even kind of more authentic with yourself to time to drill down a little bit and see who you, when I’m with. The patient. Uh, and then I think the last thing is that you also recognize this, but I think we can’t emphasize it enough. It’s another tool in the nurses’ toolkit, if you will.
So it’s a way to enable a nurse’s relationship with patients, with families, with clients. And I think in that way, probably we could teach nurses more, how to use it to be an enabler and also how to use it as an opportunity for self-reflection and learning and growth. So I think it has a place and, uh, we should advocate a little more and hopefully this series, when nurses tell their stories is going to help people’s value.
Mary Wheeler: [00:24:39] I really looking forward to the next interviews.
Gail Donner: [00:24:43] Me too.
Mary Wheeler: [00:24:44] So coming next to nurses’ voices, we’re going to be speaking to, two early career public health nurses at the Alex in Calgary and their story about working at the assistant self isolation site. I hope you can join us. And if you have a story and want to have your voice heard please share your story through our website, www.nursesvoices.ca
Announcer: [00:25:11] Nurses’ Voices is created by donnerwheeler. It is supported by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Nurses Foundation. It is produced by Cecktor Limited.