CHESTBlogThe Power of Storytelling for the Clinician

The Power of Storytelling for the Clinician

The Power of Storytelling for the Clinician

An evening with celebrated storyteller, Ada Cheng
By: Laura DiMasi
July 17, 2023

Ada Cheng

Dr. Ada Cheng

Ada Cheng

Dr. Ada Cheng

Embracing the nature of Hawaiian culture, an overarching theme of CHEST 2023 will be the deep-rooted art of storytelling. Specifically, the focus will be on the power of clinicians embracing their whole selves and using stories to strengthen relationships both with their peers and with their patients.

An art form and a means of passing on culture and history, storytelling is primarily used to teach the next generation about behavior, values, and traditions within Hawaiian culture. It takes many forms, including spoken word, mele (song), oli (chant), and hula (dance).

For clinicians, storytelling can be used to share lived experiences and patient encounters, explore the intersection of medicine and art, and more.

To begin building the framework to support clinician storytelling, on July 10, CHEST hosted a webinar with celebrated storyteller, Ada Cheng, PhD, offering attendees interactive instruction on how to incorporate storytelling into medicine.

During the webinar, a recording of which can be viewed here, Ada explained how to tell difficult and vulnerable stories in a compelling way that will have a lasting impact. During the second half of the webinar, participants were encouraged to tell their own stories to receive advice from Ada. During this time, the recording was stopped to encourage openness among the participants.

Participants shared stories of both triumph and loss with the group. Thanking them for their vulnerability, Ada provided suggestions and reminded the group to delve into the details of the story to allow the listener to imagine themselves as part of the narrative: where were you, what was the weather like, what can you see?

When a participant raised the point that, in medical training, clinicians are taught to separate doctor from human, Ada encouraged those walls to come down. “Doctors are vulnerable,” said Ada. “They are people too, and your patients know that you are also a daughter, a mother, or whatever else you may be. Let them see it.”

Ada also advised, “If you want someone to move closer to you, you need to move closer to them.”


Leveraging the same approach as storytelling, CHEST created the First 5 Minutes® initiative to enhance the skills needed for clinicians to build quicker, deeper rapport with patients.

Developed in response to a resounding lack of trust within medicine experienced between patients and their clinicians, the First 5 Minutes includes a series of free e-learning modules sharing strategies for quickly creating rapport, responding with empathy, and building stronger relationships. Expert faculty analyze videos of patient-clinician interactions and highlight where the clinician excelled and where there were missed opportunities.

The initiative also offers a downloadable skills card and virtual reality modules with additional strategies.

Explore the e-learning modules »

Download the skills card »


CHEST 2023 Webpage »

Register Now »