The Storyteller

Dabney Wilson was only four when her cousin Clayton died of cancer. The UT nursing student has few personal memories of him, but his legacy lives on through others’ stories about him.

Wilson, a senior in the Chancellor’s Honors Program, heard a lot about Clayton, who at six years old wandered hospital halls with his little IV pole, delivering nurses pictures he had drawn and sharing movies with other patients.

“I think kids like Clayton have a lot to say and a lot of insight into things adults miss.”
Working with Associate Nursing Professor Sadie Hutson, Wilson dreamed up an idea to give kids like Clayton a lasting voice and memorial through digital storytelling.

The idea, which would serve as the foundation for her Nursing Honors Program research project, aims to chronicle young cancer patients’ journeys while investigating a potential new therapeutic tool.

With iPad in hand, Wilson meets with patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital as they undergo chemotherapy treatments. She talks through pictures, movies, and songs as the children decide what they want in their digital story. The process creates a keepsake as well as qualitative data measuring the therapeutic effect gained.

“I hope to find that digital storytelling is therapeutic for these children, aiding their development and search for their role and identity in the face of cancer,” she says.
Wilson hopes the practice expands to help nurses provide better care with a better understanding of their patients.

After graduation, Wilson hopes to serve as a pediatric oncology nurse and earn her master’s degree as a nurse practitioner.


Photo by Dustin Brown

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