Cultural change is a challenging thing and yet if we examine history, there is a noticeable pattern across all human culture over countless generations, from tribes to chiefdoms to city states to modern nations; the power of a story.
Often, scientific training teaches us that facts come first and therefore ones initial reaction may be to dismiss the power of stories. They can’t be scientific; there may be few specifics, no hard numbers or evidence base involved. I have many years of scientific training yet I realised as important as a scientific discipline is, any medical doctor will be able to recount a “good clinical case” – an individual patient story – that had a very important influence on their medical training and education.
Certainly in the early part of my medical career I could not quite reconcile the power of these stories with the factual evidence base that we were trained to focus on and refer to. However as time progressed, I began to appreciate the real power in stories and what is also called “narrative” as an important element of the art and science of fields such as medicine or management. Clearly, there must be something about stories that we need to better understand.
The principle, as I understand it, is that all real change starts with one person, who leads and takes on that change. To do this they need to tell their own story, a Story of Self. For that person to work with others to achieve real change, that story of self needs to become a Story of Us, and for that change to begin to gain momentum the story needs to become a Story of Now.
So if you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin … my own short story, my Story of Self.
My own background is from a deeply medical family in Ireland, my great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a doctor, both my grandfathers were doctors, both my parents were doctors, all of my uncles are doctors, my only brother is a doctor. Within that environment I did consider taking other paths, including a look at engineering in my last year in school, yet in the end I also wanted to become a doctor and graduated in 1993 from medical school, University College Dublin.
Once qualified, my first job was in emergency medicine and although I considered a variety of other options I quickly realised that in terms of clinical practice, emergency medicine was the most challenging, diverse, stimulating and rewarding of all clinical environments – nothing else came close to holding my interest and attention and so I chose it as my own medical field.
While doctors are understood as a privileged profession who work hard, most enjoy the push and the pressure that goes with the work, especially as it so readily offers a way to “give back”, in looking after your fellow man, your patients’, as a real means to make the world a better place.
Certainly there are few places on the planet quite like an Emergency Department/Emergency Room, where “all of life is here”, literally from cradle to grave, where rich and poor are equal and care is provided based to whoever has the greatest need. The most moving moments in this intense setting.. are not those dramatic moments of the life or limb saved, but those moments after the event when patients and partners or family come together, quietly aware of what could have been, they are special moments to witness and stories not to be forgotten.
Within that complexity and over time, I noted patterns emerge. Every emergency physician on the planet will know what I mean by the A/B/C approach to resuscitation, a simple yet vital tool to guide a team involved in the complex care of a patient by looking after: A – Airway, B – Breathing, C – Circulation. This process is essential to bring order from the edge of chaos. Another pattern I found involved asking a few key questions with every patient encounter: Was there anything I hadn’t covered? Had they any questions? Were they happy with their care plan?
/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/StockSnap_7EKG7A7ATX.jpg37845920Tony Shannon//wp-content/uploads/2017/01/header-icon300.pngTony Shannon2015-03-01T15:13:20.000+00:002015-03-01T15:13:20.000+00:00Change story number 1: Story of Self