Building narrative competence as a catalyst for person-centered care

Trisha Parsons

Award: Phoenix Project Fellowship (2013)

Co-Sponsor: Queen's University

  • Medical education and curricula
  • Patient/family/caregiver voices
  • Person-centered care

During her fellowship, Trisha partnered with a patient who was living with kidney and heart failure, so she could tell that patient’s story. She was excited to use narrative medicine exercises as part of a seminar series for the Masters of Science in Physical Therapy (MScPT) program at Queen’s University. 

Guided by transformative learning theory and narrative medicine pedagogy, Trisha began by creating a personal health photo documentary film about her patient partner. Once the film was complete, she designed three corresponding narrative practice exercises. These became part of a narrative practice seminar series, a required element in an MScPT course about the management of complex health conditions.

There were three other key aspects of her project: 

  • Designing a course syllabus that described the narrative exercise and a framework for its evaluation
  • Developing facilitator training guidelines, and training four facilitators to use narrative practice for this ongoing work
  • Participating in professional development related to narrative medicine, creative writing, and qualitative methods

Trisha received another grant from AMS to expand the scope of this work. Since the narrative practice seminar was successfully embedded as a mandatory part of the masters-level physiotherapy curriculum, Trisha sought to evaluate and extend the program in several ways: 

  • Understanding the relationship between assessments of students’ narrative competence and their resilience, professional identity, and capacity for person-centered care
  • Determining the feasibility of delivering the narrative practice seminar within Queen’s University School of Nursing and other health care contexts in Ontario
  • Investigating whether the program could be shared with licensed physiotherapists as part of continuing professional development programming
  • Documenting factors that could affect the sustainability of the narrative practice seminar
  • Collaborating with the Ontario Physiotherapy Association to develop capacity among Ontario’s physiotherapy leaders and educators to deliver the narrative practice seminar

Trisha hopes the narrative practice seminar will continue to provide students with opportunities to refine their skills and support compassionate, patient-centered care for many years to come.


Hear Trisha Parsons talk about her work