My wonderful storytelling learning experience
This blog was written by Rafiat Akinokun. Rafiat is a registered nurse from Nigeria who was announced as one of the winners of the Sabin Vaccine Institute & Nursing Now Challenge Storytelling NNCGSI.
Learning about storytelling was an interesting journey that started when I was announced as one of the seven winners of the Nursing Now Challenge and Sabin Vaccine Insitute’s Global Solutions Initiative that challenged nurses and midwives globally to use their experience and knowledge to advocate for vaccine equity and acceptance using storytelling skills. Our introductory class felt solemn. I was thrilled to be with colleagues who share similar experiences, values and stories. Moreover, I felt the warmth portrayed by the People Power Health team who led this training. At the end of the first session, I was not only happy to be in that room, but I was also ready to commit, to be determined and to learn.
Our training was meticulously planned with learning taking place on the EDapp and during online zoom training sessions with the team from People Power Health. I would start with my experience in the short course- I was quite new to the EDapp and it was a fascinating experience using a whole new app. The course was packed with explanatory videos, short questions and a weekly assignment. Completing the course would never have been easy but for my nursing colleagues who were on this journey with me. I specifically found the short videos helpful. They gave real-life scenerios about the three important concepts of storytelling – The story of self, the story of now and the story of us. Gradually, I pushed through my learning and I am so proud of myself to have done that, amidst several other deadlines, working two jobs and preparing for a major exam.
The online zoom classes were dynamic. We would all come together every 1 pm on Tuesday for a period of 6 weeks to discuss what we had learned from the course on EDapp. There, I learned the importance of having a shared value and experience. During our first online zoom meeting, I was cut off from the meeting due to bad internet connection and this made me lose out from taking our first and official picture. I felt lonely and disappointed. I was disturbed because I really would not want to be cut out in the subsequent sessions. However, the next session proved that I am not alone as Mohammed, Rashid and Rose would get connected and kicked out due to poor internet connection. While that may sound sad, it led to the realization of our shared values, one of which is commitment. Even while struggling with internet connectivity, we never gave up. We would try as much as we can to get in. For me, I found a particular spot at my workplace so no matter how busy I get, I always finish up my tasks before 1 pm to use the particular spot. For Rose, she had to stay just outside a building to get connected. Mohammad preferred to stay under a particular tree and Amy, although least affected by internet issues preferred to stay in the car, with her scrubs on to prevent distractions. All these experiences shaped my thoughts and made me realize that we are not only there to learn but to understand and appreciate beautiful values. Another shared value was that of discipline. It was through discipline that we were all able to finish our assignments and meet up with our classes despite our tight schedules. Through discipline, we all completed our stories and edited them as many times as we needed to. Our stories embedded a call to action directed towards vaccine acceptance. All of these shared values re-iterated the fact that we all are interconnected as humans and we can achieve success if we all stand together. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone and we can only fight this war if everyone comes together to fight.
The most exciting part of this whole experience was the time I shared my story at the International Council of Nurses’ Congress. I did that after six weeks of learning storytelling and one-on-one sessions with Sarah ElRaheb from People Power Health. The one-on-one session was perhaps one of the most effective learning platforms in the training. For me, my sessions with Sarah gave me a unique opportunity to fully analyze my story, understand my pitfalls and improve on them. At some point, I had a challenging time understanding the Story of Us. Sarah was patient and listened to my story and made me understand the challenge I should overcome. These sessions were personal, with no distraction and they produced the maximum effect on me. Recording my story for the ICN congress was smooth and I was particularly happy listening to Prof Sheila Tlou, encouraging us and believing in our abilities to become nursing leaders. The last part of this journey was listening to the seven stories we all shared. They were inspiring and it gave me a solid hope that nurses are truly powerful with their voices.
Learning about storytelling has improved my writing and advocacy skills. I found myself composing better stories that people could connect with and this has improved my interactions with people. Moreover, I have been getting more positive reviews about my personal statements and motivation letters and this has built my confidence to amplify my voice and pursue my dream as a policymaker. If I would encourage any young nurse, I would say they should accept the Nursing Now Challenge!