Narrative Health Workshops 



Narrative Healthcare saved me from burnout.

--Dr. Daniel J. Waters

Cardio-thoracic surgeon


In clinical training, writing always has parameters. Writing creatively is an entirely different experience. It’s all wide open, and that’s scary.  

--Alexandra, Physician Assistant




What is Narrative Health?

The study of narrative deepens awareness of all that goes on within and between us when we are taking care of one another. Whether it be by simply listening to someone’s story or saving their life with a surgical procedure, we become characters in one another’s stories. Our human connections run deep regardless of longevity of knowing one another—in an instant a stranger can become a most important or prominent figure in our lives and memories. Every encounter enriches experience and offers opportunity for growth if we allow it. Narrative Health presents emotionally sustainable methods for welcoming these opportunities, finding greater meaning in challenging work, and developing each person’s own awareness of their own story.

Narrative Health offers methodologies for mediating stress and witness-fatigue, methodologies that won’t increase organizational budgets but will increase employee morale, teamwork, and health.  This is a sibling of Narrative Medicine as defined by Dr. Rita Charon, M.D. PhD., who founded the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, as “the practice of listening, attending to, reflecting upon, interpreting, and metabolizing stories.”

When we incorporate narrative awareness, we see so clearly that working with people means working with stories. Narrative Health training teaches people to interpret and metabolize them through various exercises so people will not have to “turn off their emotions” but still maintain healthy boundaries and practices in keeping with procedure.


Some examples of how Narrative Health reframes aspects of service:


Report and Story: writing the report of what happened is very different from telling the story of what happened. The latter embraces the personal experience of occurrence, allowing for emotion and admission that all encounters transform us in some way. Narrative Health teaches methods for processing a story in the context of witness.


Professional Distance and Aesthetic Distance: professional distance, we are told, demands we not feel in order to be effective. Aesthetic Distance recognizes that emotions are always present. Narrative Health incorporates study of story to support discernment of aesthetic distance as it relates to individual team members.


Protocol and Processing: People working at the frontlines of care are trained in protocol for crisis management and follow-up, to stop the bleeding, assess for further danger. Narrative health offers training for acknowledging and processing the emotions that these protocols stir, thereby making traumatic work emotionally sustainable and preventing burn-out.


The Workshops—2-Hour Model

The Narrative Health workshop presents exercises that staff and administrators can engage in on a weekly or monthly basis. Narrative is as endless a field of exploration as humanity itself, but these exercises are simple. Brief and easily replicable, they don’t require additional equipment and they don’t increase precious funds. Groups develop their narrative skill together as a natural progression while building trust and community. We will work in either small groups of dyads. Participants will enjoy the hands-on, creative engagement and leave feeling empowered to better manage, process, and experience the stories every day draws them into. Some examples follow. If you wish to collaborate on a workshop design, Laura Hope-Gill will happily do so.

Team-Building Through Stories Workshop

This workshop provides training in how to listen. Devised by Dr. Rita Charon, M.D., as a method for empathy-training for medical students, the process teaches participants how to close-read a story. In close-reading, participants move through a series of stages of attending to a story and then engage in a reflective writing exercise. While simple in its structure, the group discovers how many varying perspectives exist among them and how interdependent we are in gathering the “whole story.”

Narrative Listening Workshop

Consider three ways of listening. The first is to gain information only, as one looks for a symptom or problem. The second is to find a relatable fact, as one seeks a mirror. The third is to fully and wholly (as possible) understand what is being spoken, as one listens to a story. In this workshop, we develop this third way of listening, called “intentional interpretation.” I this mode of listening, both parties are equal in the space of telling, nourished and engaged by the acts of listening and being heard, while a broader picture of the teller’s situation is absorbed and a relationship established.

Narrative Humility Workshop

This workshop also engages teams in group close-reading. This process teaches teams what Dr. Santayani DasGupta, M.D., calls “Narrative Humility.” In this workshop participants engage in the close-reading and reflect upon how the slowing-down of reading enhances humility regarding first assumptions. “Emplotment,” a term from narrative theory, refers to the ways our imaginations make up stories based on any amount of information. It is a tool for survival, but it can also be a hindrance to understanding. In this workshop, we loosen our hold on emplotment to create space for disappointment, discovery, acceptance, and acceptance of alternative outcomes.



Creative Writing Workshop


Few spaces remain where we are not judged, evaluated, shamed, and corrected. One such spac that does remain is this creative writing workshop where we use only appreciations for one another’s writings. Relax and expand with imagination and play as we write to a series of simple prompts that leave you room to explore and be surprised. No one will tell you what you ought to say. No one will say what you said is wrong. We will say what we like about what you write. Imagine that.



Through the Narrative Healthcare Certificate Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University, she teaches one course each semester to surgeons, nurses, ministers, social workers, and general practitioners, incorporating Narrative Medicine, Medical Humanities, Expressive Arts, and Poetic Medicine. Courses are offered in an online classroom so people can attend from anywhere with WiFi. 

Laura Hope-Gill created the Narrative Healthcare Certificate Program at Lenoir-Rhyne upon noticing a desire for this training from not just physicians but social workers, caregivers, spiritual leaders, and teachers.  Dr. Daniel J. Waters, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Iowa who recently graduated from the program says, “This program saved me from burning out.”


For more information on workshops and coursework, email


Personal tools