You probably have heard about binge-watching—the practice of watching multiple episodes of a program in succession. It has changed storytelling and made us more aware of certain things.

As binge-watching increased, and people didn’t have to wait a week between episodes, storytellers started to change the way they presented the characters in their stories.

Because of binge-watching, now every episode in a series is tied together to tell one bigger story. Each episode seeks to deepen your experience with the entire series, reveals more about the characters, and draws you further into the story.

Storytellers have learned that their audiences don’t mind complexity in the stories, but they don’t like confusion. They like things to be consistent, to make sense. And they like to be aware of the important elements as early in the story arc as they can.

And storytellers have learned that relationships and events that drive the overall story are even more important than before. Random filler, inserted just for entertainment, matters a lot less.

So what can we learn from this that will make a difference in our work each day?

Well, one thing is that while the individual interactions we have with our patients and with each other are extremely important, there is a bigger story being written that is ultimately most enduring. This means that ALL of us, and EVERYTHING that happens is contributing to the patient experience. We are each part of the bigger story that is unfolding for our patients while they are in our care.

Our patients understand that their stories are complex, but they don’t like to be confused. Clear information matters. The things we do matter; the way we communicate those things is important. Lack of understanding or feeling left in the dark contributes to confusion—and this has a cumulative effect on the overall experience. What happens in the first hour is linked to the patient experience throughout their care. Things don’t average out; they build on each other.

In life, as in storytelling, relationships matter. They frame, shape, and inform every event, procedure, change, achievement, and setback. How we relate to our patients and to each other matters. Those relationships shape the attitudes that we bring to our task—along with all the training, experience, and care that our teams bring to each situation. Because we are a part of people’s lives in their most intense moments—from birth to death—our relationships with patients take on an even greater significance and clarity.

From binge-watchers we learn that there is always a bigger story that even small things contribute to. We learn that complex isn’t a challenge, but confusion is. And we learn that relationships are primary.  All of these insights contribute to the healing of our patients and our effectiveness in fulfilling our life-enriching mission.