1. Deck, Michele L. MEd, BSN, RN, LCCE, FACCE

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As the seasons change in my life, I take more time to reflect on ideas I have rejected in the past. I ask myself, "Was I quick to judge that person or what happened to him/her?" I remember a time long ago, before I was a mother, I had a long list of things my children would never do. They would never cry in the grocery store, throw a temper tantrum, or experience teenage rebellion. Even if everyone else's children experienced these things, mine would be different. How naive and judgmental I was!


I was just 2 weeks postpartum with my third child. I had had three children in 5 years and was living in a different city than my extended family. I was hopelessly out of most of the grocery essentials I needed to create something that resembled dinner. I stopped at the grocery store and ran in for a few things. I had my 5-year-old daughter holding onto the grocery cart, my 16-month-old strapped in the grocery cart seat, and my newborn slung over my right arm like a Cabbage Patch doll. I quickly gathered the things I needed using only my left hand. As I approached the register, my newborn broke out into the "I-am-hungry-right-now!" cry without warning. I was standing in the shortest line I could find, which had three people in front of me. I was trying to keep the 16-month-old seated in the cart while keeping the 5-year-old off the candy display and not losing it with the newborn, who was now crying hysterically. I kept thinking I would be in the car soon and could feed her there. This was truly my nightmare, my "never-will-it-happen-to-me" pinnacle. The woman in front of me capped it off.


She turned to me, and in a not-so-kind voice said, "Are you just going to let that baby cry, or are you going to do something about it?" I was just short of tears when I responded, "She is hungry and I am breast-feeding her. Would you like me to hook her up right here in the grocery line?"


The woman looked at me appalled. (This was 20 years ago when people were not so open about the subject in a small town in Mississippi.) She quickly turned away and did not say another word to me. She just gave me a hateful stare.


I, however, barely held it together until I got checked out, got in the car, fed my baby, and went home. From that time on, I have found there are two groups of people in the world. One group can empathize with you and says, "I understand what you are going through. It looks hard. Can I help?" The other group are those who just give you angry looks and comments and run off as soon as possible. Which of these do you think make better educators and preceptors? I think it is the empathetic group who remembers what it is to feel overwhelmed.


This is an example of how you can use stories to enhance learning with real-life examples and situations. Stories allow people to identify with your message and compare what you are teaching to their lives. I use this to help learners relate on an empathetic, nonjudgmental level to others who are new and inexperienced. They are able to relate because they have just felt those emotions themselves during my story. Good stories not only teach a lesson, they take people to a place of emotion.


I suggest you begin a file of stories you can use to illustrate and begin discussions on a number of important topics. There are a number of books on the market with prepared stories in them, but I would suggest that you use your experience and stories rather than someone else's. Have you ever learned through your mistakes? Have you ever made an error in caring for a patient? Could others learn from you? Learners can identify with others who have common experiences. I have taught many people who have heard my stories can relate their experiences to them. Stories help to make the educator credible and grounded in the "real world" to learners.


Time and experience has taught me many things, I like to share with learners. I hope you have that perspective as well.


Good luck and happy story telling!


Michele L. Deck, MEd, BSN, RN, LCCE, FACCE