Andrea Nordgren

The human experience of storytelling

By Andrea Nordgren on October 20, 2016

I can’t count how many times people — friends and strangers — have approached me and said “Oh, your mom took care of my mom” or “Your mom took care of my dad… she was so wonderful.”

For the last 32 years my mom has been a hospice nurse, easing the pain of the dying and comforting their families in their most difficult times. Never in those 32 years did I hear her say the words “patient experience,” but that is exactly what she delivered and what each of those people were describing to me so earnestly. The gratitude in their eyes was sometimes overwhelming.

When our loved ones need healthcare, we don’t always think of them as “patients” or that they are having an “experience.” They’re our husbands, kids, wives, sisters, fathers and friends. And we want them to be treated as special. To be cared for as unique human beings.

And that is exactly what we are tasked with as well. Marketing through storytelling and the ubiquitous “patient story” is definitely an effective and popular strategy. It is one of the most powerful ways to illustrate the impact caregivers can have on people’s lives. But beware the casual use of the words “patient story” and the danger of commoditizing what is the most sacred and personal treasure – someone’s true story.

Imagine telling a stranger over the phone about your breast cancer. Or inviting a crew into your home and telling them about your husband’s heart attack. When we approach the storytelling process we work directly with patients to get to know them, let them get to know us, to listen and to assure. We are witness to their pain and their joy, their fear and their gratitude. We are right there with them. We consider it an honor and we ourselves are transformed from the experience.

We recently completed a collection of very powerful stories from some incredible people. When I asked our team about how they were personally moved after working on this recent campaign for Valley Health System, this is what they said:

“You would think after watching the same scene dozens and dozens of times that you would stop being so emotional. But every single time I watched these stories, my heart would get sore and my eyes weepy. I think we all wanted to show how incredible these patients are and how brave they were for sharing such personal stories with the world.”
— Bethany, senior copywriter

“I was deeply moved by all of these people. And to know they are courageous enough to share what they’ve been through … I just have so much admiration for each of them. They do this because they know they can make a difference in others’ lives … to inspire them to heal and live better lives. I know I do it for the same reasons.”
— Jerry, creative director

“In the world of healthcare marketing, there is no greater privilege than to be given the opportunity to tell someone else’s story. But, it’s not only a privilege, it’s a responsibility that we take very seriously.”
— Stephanie, healthcare marketing director

“I was incredibly moved when I first heard our patient stories. The rawness and realness in each story was beyond powerful. These patient stories are what makes my job come to life — It’s always an honor to meet patients and their families, and I can only hope they realize the importance and value of sharing their stories in such a beautiful and open way.”
— Jenn, senior art director

We are witness to deeply emotional stories time and again and we never take that for granted. It is our highest priority.

A lot goes into working with people on their story, bringing our team and film crews into their homes, and asking them to ultimately open up on the most private of matters in the most public of ways. We do take this responsibility very seriously. Not just because we are ultimately an extension of the patient experience when representing our client, but because we value the human being above all else. Here’s why I think we are successful and why I continue to be so proud of our team:

  • We truly care about people.
  • We allow ourselves to be emotional.
  • We treat patients like heroes, because they are.
  • We are rigorously truthful in telling their stories.
  • We select only the best crew to be there with us.
  • We work as a team.

So, when we think about “patient experience” we know it is more than touchpoints, ratings, data, and marketing jargon. “Patient stories” are more than content commodities to be pushed out and measured. We think of patients as your mom, your brother, your daughter, your dad. And if you treat people like human beings, you will never lose sleep over patient experience.

Andrea Nordgren is the Director of Content/Executive Producer at Core Creative.