The strength of our stories: a qualitative analysis of a multi-institutional GME storytelling event

Maren E Olson, M. Lynne Smith, Alexandra Muhar, Trisha K. Paul, Bernard E. Trappey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Context: Storytelling is a powerful tool for encouraging reflection and connection among both speakers and listeners. While growing in popularity, studying the benefits of formal oral storytelling events within graduate medical education remains rare. Our research question was: could an oral storytelling event for GME trainees and faculty be an effective approach for promoting well-being and resilience among participants? Methods: We used multiple approaches to gather perspectives from physician participants (storytellers and audience members) at an annual oral storytelling event for residents, fellows, and faculty from seven academic health systems in Minnesota. Data sources included short reflections written by participants during the event, an immediate post-event survey exploring participants’ experiences during the event, social media postings, and targeted follow-up interviews further exploring the themes of connection and burnout that were raised in post-event survey responses. We performed a qualitative analysis using both deductive and inductive coding to identify themes. Results: There were 334 participants, including 197 physicians. At the event, 129 real-time written reflections were collected. There were also 33 Twitter posts related to the event. Response rate for the post-event survey was 65% for physicians, with 63% of physician respondents volunteering for targeted follow-up interviews. Of those, 38% completed the follow-up interview. Themes that emerged from the multi-modal qualitative analysis included a sense of connection and community, re-connection with meaning and purpose in work, renewal and hope, gratitude, and potential impact on burnout. Conclusion: The large turnout and themes identified show how an oral storytelling event can be a powerful tool to build community in graduate medical education. Qualitative analysis from multiple sources obtained both in real-time at the event and upon deeper reflection afterwards showed the event positively impacted the well-being of participants and that oral storytelling events can be an effective approach for promoting resilience in GME.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1929798
JournalMedical Education Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Story Slam events have been funded by the Metro Minnesota Council on Graduate Medical Education board. No funding was provided for this study. The authors express their sincere gratitude to the amazing storytellers for their brilliance and bravery, to the MMCGME board for their enthusiastic support and willingness to think creatively about improving trainee well-being, and to Kelly Cardenas, without whom the Story Slam would never have happened. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Michael B. Pitt for his brilliant editing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Humanities
  • Storytelling
  • burnout
  • graduate medical education
  • medical humanities
  • narrative medicine
  • resilience


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