Storytelling during clinical facilitation: an arts-based narrative inquiry

Author: Susan Timpani

Timpani, Susan, 2020 Storytelling during clinical facilitation: an arts-based narrative inquiry, Flinders University, College of Medicine and Public Health

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Arts-based pedagogy is a growing phenomenon in nurse education. The benefits of the arts to classroom education is discussed widely in the literature. Research into arts-based learning during clinical nurse education is less evident. Nursing students can experience clinical placement as complex and challenging. They are required to meet learning goals, adjust to the professional culture, and manage their own social and emotional needs. Clinical educators are required to facilitate cognitive, affective and psychomotor skill development. The competing demands of placement can reduce attention on students’ less tangible skills such as caring. Arts-based learning, through storytelling, has been shown to develop skills in the affective domain. This learning strategy has the potential to support students to reflect on their caring practice during clinical placement.


Storytelling aims to promote students’ reflections on their interactions with patients. This learning strategy seeks to balance the focus of learning on clinical and cognitive nursing with interpersonal skills. This narrative inquiry aimed to discover if storytelling assisted student when they interacted with patients. The inquiry anticipated that some stories would reflect caring practice. In order to avoid bias students were not specifically asked to reflect on caring, but patient encounters, caring or otherwise. This inquiry also aimed to explore stories for potential obstacles or opportunities students encountered to engage with patients.


Over a period of nine months I met with seven consecutive groups of nursing students during their clinical placement. Each group had up to six students, and placements occurred from two to eight weeks in duration. The placements occurred in two different hospitals and on different wards. I visited the student groups up to three times per week throughout their clinical placement, dedicating one visit per week to a storytelling session. I provided the students with a story prompt to focus free writing for ten minutes. Transcripts of storytelling sessions, creative writing pieces, and my research journal were used as field texts for exploration. The methodology predominantly followed Clandinin and Connolly’s approach to narrative inquiry. In order to closely examine the written or recorded stories, I also used narrative analysis.

Narrative threads:

Five narrative threads appeared across the texts. These included: students engaged enthusiastically to tell stories about their placement experiences; storytelling enabled students to reflect back on moments of mutual enjoyment with patients; clinical educators can be a barrier as well as a facilitator to students connecting with patients; RNs can be a barrier as well as a facilitator to students connecting with patients, and students from Culturally and Linguistic Diverse (CALD) backgrounds experience unique challenges, the impact of which on patient engagement is unclear.

Significance and Conclusion

This narrative inquiry demonstrates the power of storytelling for students to reflect on their patient interactions. The stories identified moments of caring, and moments of challenges. Stories also demonstrated insight into the obstacles and opportunities nursing students encounter when interacting with patients. As a teaching and learning tool, storytelling has demonstrated the potential to facilitate intentional reflection on patient engagement. Positioned within the genre of arts-based learning, storytelling is only one strategy to enhance affective learning. There is scope for further research on other aspects of arts-based learning in clinical education.

Keywords: clinical facilitation, nursing, nurse education, storytelling, arts-based learning, arts-based narrative inquiry

Subject: Public Health thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Medicine and Public Health
Supervisor: Professor Linda Sweet