The group presented two stories: John, a 74 year old man with dementia, living with his daughter and facing the end phase of his life. The drama highlighted typical practice dilemmas, such as whether John should be told that his wife has died, despite his insisting that she is alive, and demonstrated the skills of advance care planning in such circumstances.
The second story explored the theme of compassionate care for staff at an organisational and team level through Pat, a palliative care nurse encountering lack of compassion and experiencing a fraught appraisal with the nursing director.
The lead facilitators for Stories that Speak – David Oliviere, social worker, counsellor and former director of education at St Christopher’s Hospice, and Helen Scott, palliative care nurse, dementia care volunteer and editor of End of Life Journal – drew together key teaching points relating to the interactions being acted out.
David Oliviere commented: “People remember stories. Often in teaching, course participants don’t recall the detail of a lecture, but the dramatic impact of a patient and family story remains. Stories make a huge impact on us.”
The wider group of palliative care professionals that deliver Stories that Speak are all experienced palliative and health care practitioners and trainers with hundreds of patient stories to tell. They offer short, dramatic and powerful scene-setting presentations or longer workshops of complex patient and family scenarios. The group create ‘in the room’ depictions of patients’ and carers’ experiences, dynamics and appropriate interventions.
The learning outcomes of the exercise were for participants to:
- understand patient experience in relation to the themes and topics being addressed
- appreciate patient–family–professional interactions and the complexities involved; and
- gain insight into the impact of the dynamics of challenging situations on the professional or volunteer caregiver.
Garden House Hospice’s Anniversary Conference offered a mosaic of approaches from the arts and humanities to explore compassionate care.
The conference organisers, Dr Viv Lucas, medical director and Hannah Sypula, practice development coordinator, were delighted to have Stories that Speak on the conference programme.
Dr Lucas commented: “there was an immediacy about bringing these stories alive in the room, freezing the action at various points, and allowing the audience to comment on what they had seen and heard.”