Voices of Duke Health: Are You Listening to My Story?

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Jaime McClennen
Email: press@abimfoundation.org


This is the fifth Trust Practice Challenge to be featured in this letter. It was one of eight outstanding submissions we are showcasing at the annual Foundation Forum in August.

Every day, people in hospital and clinical practices who are providing care to the sick endure stress while their patients and their families endure pain and even loss. These clinicians often have no outlet to tell their stories, which remain trapped in their psyches. Sometimes the clinicians become the patients.

The Voices of Duke Health was created to give health care professionals a listening booth, a dedicated space for facilitated conversations. The recorded conversations are offered to participants for their own use; some conversations are shared through a podcast that is available to the public and posted, along with transcripts, to their website (http://listeningbooth.info).

The authors of the project’s submission to the Trust Practice Challenge state: “At the heart of the Voices of Duke Health project is our passion for the art of listening. We know that health care, and life in general, is fast-paced and full of stresses. The listening booth fosters conversations between people, and provides time and space to slow down and listen to each other.”

An overall Duke Health initiative named Advancing Health Together identified a goal of sustaining Duke as a “place where everyone thrives and is valued.” The annual work culture survey has indicated high levels of employee satisfaction, but feelings of stress and burnout were evident. Duke Health saw the Voices of Duke Health as an effective way to strengthen resiliency.

I listened to a powerful podcast that featured a physician talking about his recent diagnosis of leukemia and what it meant to him, his family and patients. In another episode I listened to a pediatric ICU nurse who spoke about the triumphs and heartbreaks of working in such a pressurized environment.

How is the Voices of Duke Health program a trust building practice?

  • Telling your story to a person in a booth makes the storyteller vulnerable, which is at the core of trust.
  • The stories have tremendous authentic compassion in them. This giving of oneself engenders trustworthiness in that person by another colleague or patients. The listener is told subtly that this person cares about his or her patients and therefore deserves my trust.
  • Individuals who go into the booth sense that the community cares about them, and this in turn builds trust in their health care community.
  • Participants trust that the podcast will be produced properly and will enable their words to shine.
  • All stories are accepted – either to be broadcast or for private use. This produces a legitimacy and confirmation that you and your story are important. This acceptance is a special message of love and compassion for all of humankind. Without this, there can be no trust among humanity.

As the authors state, authentic and skilled listening is intrinsic to all trustworthiness.




Daniel B. Wolfson
EVP & COO, ABIM Foundation