Sharing stories, transforming healthcare

“If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
– Mother Theresa

Evelyn McKnight, president of HONOReform
Evelyn McKnight, president of HONOReform

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of “Survivor’s Stories” blog. We thank you for your loyal readership, and we ask you to share with all your associates.

Today we want to thank the many people who have so graciously shared their personal stories with us. Thank you Barbara, Johnny, Mary, Amanda, Ron, Tom, Kim, Tom, Chuck, Melisa, Patty, Tam, Jan, Sharon, Joe, Karen, Rich and Anita for sharing your own story of how your life has been affected by unsafe injections. We know how difficult it can be to share such deeply personal stories with others, especially total strangers. We also know how vitally important it is.

The number of Americans that have been affected by unsafe injections in the past decade is staggering, reaching into the hundreds of thousands. Yet these numbers, although alarming, do not bring about change as readily as the story of the one. These numbers are dry statistics, “human beings with the tears dried off,” and fail to spark emotion or feeling and thus fail to motivate action. Social psychologists argue that this reflects the way our consciences and ethical systems are based on individual stories and are distinct from the parts of our brains concerned with logic and rationality. See “Psychic Numbing and Genocide” for more fascinating information on the numbing effect of impersonal data.

It is the personal stories that change hearts. And when hearts are changed, behaviors are changed. Healthcare becomes safer for all Americans.

I will never forget my first visit to Capitol Hill to visit my congressional delegation’s offices. Congressmen are busy people, and the staff that supports them is equally busy. When I first sat down with staffers, I could read distraction and disinterest in their faces. But as I told my story, they became transformed. They peered at me closely. They asked questions. They took notes. And by the end of the interview, they asked me what their boss could do to help and even made offers of what he would do that day.

Personal stories are powerful. When there is a face on an issue, it becomes real. It moves people to action.

I was very nervous the first time I told my story publicly, which was to a nursing class at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. After the class, the professor said to me, “Today you have spoken to a hundred new nurses. After hearing you speak, they will never compromise patient safety. Through your story, you have made healthcare safer for all the patients that they will serve, which will be thousands upon thousands over the course of their careers.” The butterflies in my stomach flew away immediately, and after looking at it in this way, I have never been reluctant to share my story ever since.

Do you have a story to tell?
How would hearing your story motivate providers, policymakers and manufacturers to commit to safe injections?

Again, we thank all the many people who have shared with others how their lives have been affected by unsafe injections. And we ask those of you who have a story, but have not shared it, to let us help you tell your story. Contact me anytime at evelyn@honoreform.org. Thank you.

Next week we will discuss how sharing stories help the people who have been affected by unsafe injections.

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