By Tracy Granzyk, MS, MFA
Editor-In-Chief, Please See Me
Founder and Director, Center for Healthcare Narratives
MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety
In the traditional healthcare relationship, the roles of the provider and the patient are many times scripted by customs, institutions, and systems with many layers of expectations. We often forget that each individual has their own underlying story; one that makes them human and offers a pathway to connect on a more meaningful level. When there is a deeper understanding of each person’s backstory, there is less chance for misunderstandings and a better chance expectations will be met. And better communication in healthcare has been shown to lessen the chance of mistakes being made.
Our new online literary journal, Please See Me, is attempting to bridge the gap between patients and their providers by creating a platform where each can share their personal health and healthcare-related stories. The stories submitted by patients, family members, writers, artists, caregivers, and healthcare professionals take the form of short stories, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and digital media, including photography, podcasts, and short films. The publication’s underlying mission is the cultivation of meaningful patient–provider partnerships by connecting the heart with the head.
We published our inaugural issue in March 2019, and are currently taking submissions once again until June 30th for our September 2019 issue. The Center for Healthcare Narratives at the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety (MIQS) is the nonprofit sponsor of Please See Me. The journal’s name and inspiration comes from our short award-winning film by the same name that was screened as the keynote presentation for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services at their 2016 Quality Conference. The film, like the journal, was also designed to inspire conversations between patients and providers. Both creative pieces have succeeded in connecting MIQS with audiences and voices from around the world who have a healthcare story to tell, and a desire to be heard.
Please See Me also offers a nonacademic platform with a quicker submission-to-publication time frame than an academic-based publication can offer. The quality of our literary content remains high thanks in part to a dedicated group of volunteer editors with expertise in various genres and subject areas, and a growing literary network thanks to colleagues at my University of California-Riverside Low Residency MFA Program. We received 120 submissions for our first issue, and have attracted some A-list creative talent with just a grassroots marketing effort to date.
I believe that almost everyone has a health-related story to share. These stories, poems, photographs, videos, and artwork allow patients and providers to see each other as people before seeing each other in the roles they play in a healthcare encounter. It is easy to forget that healthcare professionals are equally human when it comes to both caring for patients and being a patient themselves. Providers spend most of their workdays with patients at their most vulnerable moments and have an opportunity to empathize through the narratives of their patients that could just as easily be about them, their spouse, a parent, or child.
Healthcare used to be designed in a way that fostered a deeper understanding between patients and providers. Somewhere between the initiation of managed care, electronic health records, and an adversarial medical-legal environment, we seem to have lost our true north. With medical errors and preventable patient deaths now the third leading cause of death, it’s long overdue that we try new ways of solving old problems. Stories can take us places, we’ve yet to go; provide a rehearsal space before putting anyone at risk. I believe that until providers believe they can tell their story, we’re going to keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s because stories and narratives have always managed to raise public awareness on bureaucratic issues that fall victim to stakeholders at odds with their own best interests that we most need them now. Once the public is aware, especially today, strategic levers can be pushed and pulled, encouraging healthcare as a whole to move in ways that might feel uncomfortable at first, but are simply the right thing to do for the greater good.
Our goal at Please See Me is to publish quarterly, and become the place to go to submit or to connect with creative, literary-quality health-related content in a variety of mediums. With additional donor support, Please See Me may also be able to offer writing contests, compensate our editors and contributors, and publish an annual print version.
Visit PleaseSeeMe.com to access the current issue, subscribe to future issues, and to submit your story. A portfolio of short narrative films based on patient and provider stories can also be found in the MIQS Video Library.