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Stories in PATCHATT – using narrative to catalyse change

Updated: May 29, 2023

Man is a storytelling animal (MacIntyre,1985). We tell stories to make sense of the world and our place in it (Connelly and Clandinin, 2006), to create ‘a record of agentive encounters’ (Bruner, 1996:36). When illness strikes, stories can help us discover and articulate our values and experience (Bohlmeijer et al., 2007): patients tell stories to understand suffering (Frank, 2013), doctors tell stories to understand and improve their craft (Liao and Wang, 2020), philosophers and historians tell stories to understand the connection between life and death (Kalitzhus and Mathiessen, 2009).

We are interested in how storytelling can be used as a catalyst to ignite patient-led change. NHS England (2021) advocates galvanising action through public narratives which can take both verbal and visual form (Bate et al., 2004). Here, storytelling is re-defined as a leadership act, capable of catalysing change across all levels of the palliative care ecosystem. It is this level of change which individuals with a life-limiting illness tell us they want to bring about.

Articulating your story in words can sometimes be difficult. We are therefore experimenting in PATCHATT with telling stories in visual form. Comics are used to exemplify patient leadership activity.


They are also used as an alternative form of evaluation.

We continue to explore how stories, both verbal and visual, can support our change-making initiative.


Bate, S.P., Bevan, H. and Robert, G. (2004) Towards a million change agents. A review of the social movements’ literature: implications for large-scale change in the NHS. Retrieved 20 July 2021 from

Bohlmeijer, E., Roemer, M., Cuijpers, P. and Smit, F. (2007) The effects of reminiscence on psychological well-being in older adults: A meta-analysis, Ageing and Mental Health, 11(3),291-300.

Bruner, J. (1996) The Culture of Education. London: Harvard University Press.

Connelly, F. and Clandinin. D. Narrative inquiry (2006) In J. Green, G. Camilli & P. Elmore (eds.) Handbook of complementary methods in education research. Mahwah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Frank, A. (2013). The wounded storyteller. (2nd Edition) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Kalitzhus, V. and Mathiessen, P. (2009) Narrative-based medicine: potentials, pitfalls and practice. The Permanente Journal, 13(1), 80-86.

Liao, H-C. and Wang, Y. (2020) Storytelling in medical education: narrative medicine as a resource for interdisciplinary collaboration. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(1135), 1-16.

National Health Service (NHS) England (2021) Public narrative. Online library of quality service improvement and re-design tools. Retrieved 15 August 2021 from Layout 1 (

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