Beth Toner, senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, presents the first Suter Science Seminar of 2016. Toner, a registered nurse, will speak about how taking the time to listen to patient's stories has the potential to transform health care. (Courtesy photo)

Nurse, communications strategist with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to speak on transformative power of listening

Nurse and communications strategist Beth Toner, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, presents the first Suter Science Seminar of the spring semester on Friday, Jan. 15, with Health Care Narrative: How Stories Can Help Transform Health Care.” The seminar will be at 4 p.m. in Suter Science Center 106 at Eastern Mennonite University, with refreshments and a chance to meet the speaker preceding the talk.

Toner shares how, in this era of high-tech medicine, providers obtain information and data about patients, but often do not take the time to listen to their stories. Yet these stories would provide an important perspective and improve the health care experience for all stakeholders. [To learn more about Toner’s attention to narrative, read this post from her blog at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in which she talks about how simply paying attention to health providers and to their clients can offer revolutionary results, or this post in which she reflects on her son’s challenges with mental illness.]

“Hearing and listening to the client’s narrative story of their journey through life and illness has been identified as a crucial practice within the health care professions,” said nursing professor Don Tyson, who is encouraging his students to attend the seminar.

He says the result of this kind of special listening allows health care providers to understand the client’s perspective when important decisions are made.

“Beth’s message will help our nursing students understand how to more fully implement EMU’s sacred covenant philosophy approaches of presence, advocacy, empowerment, and empathy through this important practice,” Tyson said.

Toner, who is currently in the master’s in nursing program at EMU, has a variety of professional experience that gives her special insight into this topic. A registered nurse with clinical experience in long-term care and community health settings, she is senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Toner has more than 24 years of experience in marketing communications in the health field, including director of marketing initiatives at The Hartford; senior web content developer for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; multimedia communications specialist for the University of Pennsylvania Health System; and a public relations coordinator for Harleysville Insurance. She also holds a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University.

This seminar is co-sponsored by EMU’s master’s in nursing program. Suter Science Seminars continue regularly through the spring semester.