Using Stories to Develop Relationship-Based Care

Relationship-based care is central to new draft NMC Standards

The new draft Nursing and Midwifery Council standards will be introduced in March 2018 and all education programmes need to be compliant with those guidelines by September 2019. Central to those is the development of relationship skills: being able to collaborate with individuals, families, colleagues and other professionals in multi-disciplinary, dynamic care environments.  This makes our work particularly relevant to higher and further education institutions who prepare our future health and social care workforce.

Our Tools for Change are:

  • Evidence based:
    • reflecting the contemporary policy and practice landscape, and
    • informed by the lived experience of service users and practitioners
  • Enjoyable for students to use:
    • offering real-life situations and characters that students connect with emotionally and intellectually, and
    • providing a safe way to address, challenge and shift attitudes
  • Flexible for lecturers to use:
    • supporting inter-professional learning and cross-school collaboration in workshop, lecture and on-line formats
    • complement your existing methods (e.g. scenario based learning and user experience)
  • Effective for supporting learning:
    • enabling students to develop the relationship skills required for person-centred and family-centred care
    • enabling field specific skills to be learnt within the context of the whole person, their wider life and relationships and the other professionals involved in their care.

Important to Me: Scrambled

Important to Me: Scrambled was commissioned by Edinburgh Napier University to enhance student learning across all four fields of nursing within the undergraduate programme. It provides a realistic family context against which nursing theory, policy and practice can be introduced, explored and understood by students, leading to more effective integration of learning and application to developing practice.

Scrambled tells the story of the Ramsay family who experience a series of challenges over the course of six months. Each challenge focusses on the needs and experience of a family member: the teenaged girl who has asthma; her aunt who has a learning disability; her grandmother who has long term health conditions; and her dad who has a mental health problem. The story unfolds over 12 scenes (60 minutes running time).

Important to Me: Connor Goes Swimming

Important to Me: Connor Goes Swimming was commissioned by the Scottish Government to implement a national policy for children and young people focusing on allied health professional services.  By bringing together individuals, families and all who support them, Connor Goes Swimming is intended to improve the experience and outcomes of care by helping people develop more collaborative relationships in which:

  • control is shared
  • assessment of risk is negotiated
  • action is shaped by what is most important to the child or young person and their family
  • self-management, resilience and independence are promoted in the way that support is provided.

Connor Goes Swimming tells the story of Connor, a 7 year-old boy, who has become unhappy at school. His family tries to understand what is happening and to get the support he needs from the school and health services. It unfolds over 8 scenes (43 minutes running time).

The benefit of working with us

Each year we’ll develop new Tools to add to our portfolio.  Although the content, stories and focus will differ, these Tools will complement one another in their exploration of core themes underpinning relationship based care (like collaborative working, risk management, interpersonal skills).  In using these Tools, you can be confident that your curriculum is up to date with the issues relevant to current practice and policy.

An annual license with Storyworlds Life provides:

  • full access to all our Tools for Change (online and hard copies of booklets)
  • training in how to use the approach (bi-annual 1-day training)
  • updates on the new Tools for Change available (bi-annual 1-day update)
  • permission for your lecturer/practitioners to use the Tools for Change in their practice environment.
  • your contribution to an evaluation fund to which any organisation (including your own) can apply to fund an evaluation of impact project (with outcomes shared with all licensed organisations)
  • your contribution to a social benefit fund to which any organisation (including your own) can apply to fund a local community-led project that generates social benefit

Contact us for more information


There are three key parts to vocational undergraduate teaching – knowledge, skills and attitudes.  I think we do the first two very well, but the third is far trickier to address.  This story-based approach to learning is a fantastic vehicle for addressing, challenging, and even shifting, attitudes in a safe environment.

One challenge for students is that the practice they witness while on placement does not always match what they’re taught by us – the so called ‘theory/practice gap’.  Given their lack of experience it’s hard for them to assess these differences on their own when they’re on placement.  Again, this approach using stories and reflective learning provides a safe way for them to improve their skills at assessing their own, and other people’s practice.

Lecturer Nursing & Midwifery, University of York

Using stories to illustrate good holistic nursing practice and care works well, tutorials are really interactive and the whole class gets involved in good discussion and sharing experiences.  The stories are emotional, so the learning is deeper than if we just read books and articles. 

Student module feedback

The students like that the stories reflect real life situations with real life characters and it’s generated a lot of discussion.  They get really involved with the characters and are able to reflect on their specific experiences as well as on how these relate to the wider issues in Mental Health care that we’re covering in the module.

Senior Lecturer, Mental Health Nursing