This week I was lucky enough to attend the European Society of Emergency Medicine conference in Lisbon in person. It has been a wonderful experience to once again reconnect with people face to face. Since the start of the pandemic we have survived on online conferences, many of which have been excellent, but I can’t help but feel that they were a holding pattern that kept us going, but which lacked the ability to innovate and develop in the same way. In the last few days I’ve had really interesting and positive interactions that will lead to new ideas and projects. I don’t think that happens in the online world and I’ve missed it.
I did a few talks at the conference, one on the zero point survey which I hope you are already familar with and another which I delivered at short notice after a colleague sadly had to drop out. The session was in the true stories from the ED track and so it seemed appropriate to revisit a talk I’ve given just once before on the power of storytelling.
The full blog post can be found here and I’d love you to read it. The topic was inspired originally by listening to Michelle Johnston at SMACC, and since then by listening to the great storytellers that we have in our speciality. It’s noticeable how closely I value and associate the ability to tell great stories, with the ability to communicate effectively. Take a moment to think about your favourite educators and I’ll guarantee that they are great storytellers, who use patient and clinicians stories at the core of the education and learning. A great example at EuSEM is David Carr who has a fabulous ability to take what might appear to be quite a routine topic and to then turn it into something utterly engaging through the use of patient stories blended into the underlying evidence base.
The reason why it works is because we are all hard wired to tell and listen to stories. They were the currency of communication for centuries before the written word, and more latterly the electronic word became commonplace. Widespread literacy is really a very recent concept and although clearly incredible for humanity, we are yet to leave our dependency on stories and storytellers.
You can read a lot more about the science and rationale for stories on my blog post from a few years ago, but before you nip over there just watch the video below and then write down what you see before reading on.
I love this animation. Despite the fact that it is just shapes moving around it’s almost impossible to not see and invent a story. Even when no story exists we just have to make one up. With something so hard wired into our minds it would be crazy not to use this as a way of helping us all learn.
EuSEM was fabulous. It’s one of my favourite conferences because it brings people together from such varied health economies but with a singular purpose. Next year it will be in Berlin and I sincerely hope to see you there.