My Life, My Story: VA’s healthcare improvements through deliberate storytelling


I was a scribe, they gave me the schedule And I wrote down multiple copies For the drill instructors to wear in their
hats It’s a long story. We left in WWII When the Russians were coming
in When I went in I really liked it This is my life and my story My name is Gene Batchelor I was born in Platteville, Wisconsin in 1943 I think it’s about people having a voice And you haven’t heard about when you’re getting
out? No We basically have people who are trained going into veteran’s rooms And asking them to tell their story The story is really a way to connect Providers with veterans – with patients And have them connect over something that’s
real and meaningful Thinking back on your time in the service What do you think you got out of it? What did you learn from it? I learned to follow orders We ask, “What would you like your provider
to know about you?” That’s really the prompting question What would you want to share with your healthcare
provider? What would you want them to know about you
as a person? And from that we get a tremendous variety
of stories So after the interview which is usually about
an hour We write up the story I used to take those timbers and pick them
up And carry them on my shoulder like a toothpick I used to be a strong son of a gun But not anymore I look forward to it now because Part of the process is to return after you’ve written the story And go through it with the vet To make sure that it sounds good to them and Includes things they want to include And I can tell you every single time
I’ve come back The response that I get from the vets is Generally very emotional It’s very grateful, it’s very appreciative A lot of the vets tell me That they’ve never told people these things
before They’ve never had the opportunity I get a lot of vets who want to give me a
hug Who are very tearful afterwards and it just It gets me tearful just thinking about it And that’s what brings me back because I get to see first hand how meaningful This process is to them Did you ever get married? Ruth To an old schoolmate of mine She was in the tavern one night so I asked
her for a dance One thing led to another so we started going
out together We were together 24 years She was a good woman She had necrotizing fasciitis That’s a flesh-eating disease Very bad She was over at the UW Hospital in an induced
coma for 3 months Because they had taken 30 pounds out of her
stomach She lived 8 years after that Your companion, your compadre You lose that and it’s no fun But life goes on I still miss her But I got my cat I got a little male cat at home – Bandit He’s a good boy, we get along pretty good He sleeps a lot and so do I so we’re a good
team He’s probably wondering where I’m at They’ve really made it accessible to us Which is important for nurses Cause we’re just running around all day It’s important in part of the healing process For a lot of these vets that they can share Their life experiences Whether it rehashes something that’s difficult Or rehashes a really great part of their life It brings a new piece to their care But I’m a little eccentric what the hell As long as I know it I’m a collector, I have a 150 caliber black powder cannon I think it’s really helpful because it humanizes the veteran for us So often we get overwhelmed with the clinical
picture Looking at lab tests, looking at x-rays and Dealing with acute issues Even though we try to get a feeling For that person and get to know them It’s very difficult I think In our time-compressed world So how are you doing today? Occasionally the nurses will find one that they really find interesting And they’d like to pass it on to you And 58,000 people died there I got out of the Army in 1964 with an honorable
discharge I was in for 3 years I had a lot of jobs after I got discharged To me the value in it is what the vets get
out of it Is what I give to the vets And in my way that’s my thanks for their service Life-changing sounds kind of cliched But it is When you get to be a part of someone’s human
experience And write this narrative And see the affect it has on them It brings you back I never have to explain the program I can just go into the room and say We’re going to ask you about your story And people know what I’m talking about And when you read a story, people get it The whole program makes sense to them Just when they hear one story So what do you think? I like it You put it down just the way I wanted it

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