The innermost circle of health represents each of us as unique individuals.
We start at the middle of the circle saying, "I am the expert on my life, values, goals, and priorities. Only I can know WHY I want my health. Only I can know what really matters to ME. And this knowledge needs to be what drives my health and well-being. I am the leader of my team, and my medical team professionals are some of the invited players.
Whole Health means thinking about and approaching your health in a new way. It puts YOU, not your symptoms, at the center of your care decisions. Through conversations and courses, VA staff and Veteran peers will get to know you. They will work with you to set health and well-being goals based on your needs and what matters to you. The Personal Health Inventory is a great tool to begin this process.
Your story is unique and your whole health begins with what matters to you.
Enter .... My Life, My StoryThe "My Life, My Story" program was started to share the compelling and deeply moving stories Veterans have to tell — stories that may shed greater light on their overall health status. In addition to honoring their military service, these stories give voice to each Veteran's unique life experience, often yielding clinical information that might otherwise go undetected. By helping Veterans connect their stories with their VA health care providers and inpatient and primary care teams, My Life My Story supports more effective patient-centered care.
With the Veteran’s permission, those stories go into the Veteran’s medical record so that VA health care providers can read them and get to know their patients better. These stories help VA health care providers better understand their patients and provide them with insights and information.
VA staff and trained VA volunteers conduct interviews with Veteran patients and write brief stories about the Veterans’ lives. After obtaining consent from the Veteran, the short 1,000 word story is published for others to listen and learn. Explore the videos and podcasts below to learn more.
My Life, My Story Podcasts
Many VA Medical Centers around the country have a My Life, My Story coordinator who can help get your story documented. Veterans who want to record their story must be enrolled in the VA health care system to particpate. Email us for more information or your questions.
The My Life, My Story program is active in nearly 60 VA medical facilities across the country. Many of the stories are written by volunteers. Good volunteers can come from all ages and backgrounds: you don’t need to be a professional writer, but it helps to have some writing and/or healthcare experience. Good listening skills are a must. You also need time: an average story (including the interview) takes about four hours to finish, but it can go longer, too.
Bottom line? If you enjoy writing and meeting new people, My Life, My Story could be a great fit for you. Contact the Voluntary Services office at your local VA facility to see if they have the program and whether they are accepting volunteers.
If you're interested in starting up My Life, My Story at the VA facility where you work, we've got loads of materials -- including toolkits, templates, training videos and more – that we can send your way. And if you're curious about launching the program at your non-VA medical facility, you're not alone. Several institutions have done so around the country, often by getting medical students to do interviews and write stories as part of their education. The Boston VA has led the way with some of those partnerships. You can watch a video about Boston's program or access some of their materials here.
As always, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.
A lot has been written about VA's My Life, My Story program over the years. Here's a few examples if you'd like to learn more.
- National Public Radio: “Storytelling Helps Hospital Staff Discover the Person Within the Patient
- Washington Post: “Doctors are taught early about patient histories. Is it time for different questions?
- On Wisconsin Magazine: “Story Time”
- Wall Street Journal: “To Improve Care, Veterans Affairs Asks Patients Their Life Stories” (subscription required)
- Channel 3 News, Madison, WI: (video) "VA connects with patients through stories of survival"