Using arts-based digital storytelling in neonatal care to enhance nursing students’ empathy
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Using arts-based digital storytelling in neonatal care to enhance nursing students’ empathy

Julia Petty Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in Children’s Nursing, School of Health and Social Work, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the importance of understanding parents’ emotional experiences in providing effective neonatal care

  • To improve your knowledge of how arts-based digital stories can be developed and used to enhance learning and empathy

  • To be aware of the factors that can support and hinder nursing students’ learning

Background The emotional challenges experienced by parents of infants admitted to the neonatal unit are well documented. Stories based on parents’ narratives can be an effective method for nursing students to learn about parents’ experiences and develop empathy for them.

Aim To explore the contribution of arts-based digital storytelling based on parental experiences of neonatal care to enhancing empathy in children’s nursing students.

Method A collection of digital stories based on parental narratives were developed using the ASPIRE (aim, storyboarding, population, implementation, release, evaluation) framework. A mixed-methods approach was used to evaluate the effects of three of those digital stories, whereby 67 children’s nursing students completed questionnaires and seven of them were interviewed individually about the stories.

Findings The mix of illustrations, animation, voice and text was well received by participants, not only aiding their learning, but also eliciting an emotional response from them. However, some aspects of the digital stories were found to hinder learning and some participants questioned the power of digital stories. Despite this, overall, the use of digital storytelling was found to be engaging, hold students’ interest and enable learning via their senses.

Conclusion Arts-based digital storytelling can convey the complexities of parents’ emotional experiences in the neonatal unit, so that nursing students are better equipped to understand and empathise with them.

Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2021.e1351

Peer review

This article has been subject to open peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Petty J (2021) Using arts-based digital storytelling in neonatal care to enhance nursing students’ empathy. Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2021.e1351

The author would like to thank Nursing Children and Young People, supported by the Royal College of Nursing’s Research in Child Health community, for the 2020 children’s nursing research award relating to this work

Published online: 01 February 2021

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