Four years ago, Melody Rasmor’s plan to write her doctoral dissertation on digital storytelling in nurse practitioner education met with skepticism. It sounded too pop-culture for a serious academic pursuit.
But Rasmor persisted, and her research has helped influence the field. Today nurse practitioner programs across the country are adopting digital storytelling as a teaching tool. “Now they see its power and are asking for more,” said Rasmor, EdD, FNP, RN, assistant clinical professor in the College of Nursing at WSU Vancouver.
Digital storytelling is a narrative that takes advantage of electronic media, such as video. Rasmor discovered it as a doctoral student in education at Washington State University Pullman. As her fellow students shared their stories, Rasmor saw the power of digital storytelling to evoke disparate human experiences and break down barriers. “Stories help us make sense of our world and our communities,” she said. “If you’re trying to infuse cultural diversity into a program, this is a natural fit.”
Though widely used in education, digital storytelling was barely known in nursing, Rasmor learned. Yet nurse practitioners encounter different people all the time and often have to pry their stories out of them. So she decided to research nurse practitioner students’ experience of creating a digital story and what they learned from it about themselves and others.
She asked her students to develop a narrative and tell it using any media program. (Most students were comfortable with the technology.) Of course, the value of digital stories lies not in the technology but in the stories. One student wrote that it was “perhaps the most interesting and engaging assignment I’ve experienced in nursing school.”
Faculty benefited too. “Faculty viewed their students more holistically, understanding their world view, situational stressors, cultural beliefs and biases,” Rasmor said. “Our understanding of students has brought richness and heightened quality to classroom discussions.”
Another bonus: Digital storytelling is a way to infuse creativity and art into the curriculum, Rasmor said, “and I think we need to do more of that.”
Rasmor sees digital storytelling as a potential part of a capstone project for nurse practitioner students. Rather than telling their personal story, they might use a story to humanize a more abstract topic, such as health disparities or a health policy dilemma.
Over the years, Rasmor helped spread the idea by developing three posters on the topic for her professional organization. One of them received an outstanding poster award at the National Nurse Practitioner Faculty annual conference in 2012.