Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Patient-Caregiver Dyad Perspectives on Participation in a Digital Storytelling Intervention: A Qualitative Approach

Sunny Wonsun Kim, Shelby Langer, Mary Ahern, Linda Larkey, Michael Todd, Danielle Martin, Karen Weihs, Nandita Khera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Storytelling has long been considered an effective means of communication, allowing the teller to process their emotions in light of particular life challenges. Effects on the listener also have been demonstrated to be beneficial, especially if the listener is faced with a similar life challenge. Less is known regarding the potential effects of storytelling on listening dyads and opportunities for joint processing following exposure to relevant stories. We sought to study these phenomena in the context of hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), a demanding medical procedure requiring intensive informal caregiving and thus great patient-caregiver entwinement. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore participants’ perceptions of a 4-week web-based digital storytelling (DST) intervention using both quantitative ratings of acceptability and qualitative coding of interviews conducted after intervention completion. A total of 202 participants (101 HCT patient-caregiver dyads) were recruited from the Mayo Clinic Arizona and randomized into either a DST arm or an Information Control (IC) arm. Participants in the DST arm rated the acceptability of the intervention and were asked to participate in a 30-minute phone interview to discuss their experience with the DST intervention. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim and imported into NVivo 12 for coding and analysis, using a combination of deductive and inductive approaches to organize the data, create categories, and develop themes and subthemes. A total of 38 participants (19 HCT patient-caregiver dyads) completed the post-intervention interviews. Patients were 63% male and 82% White, 68% received allogeneic HCT, and their mean age was 55 years. The median time from HCT was 25 days (range, 6 to 56 days). Caregivers were mostly patients’ spouses (73%) and female (69%), with a mean age of 56 years. In general, the 4-week web-based DST intervention was well accepted and liked by both patients and caregivers regarding the duration, dyadic participation, and convenience of participating in the intervention at home. Patients and caregivers who completed the DST intervention indicated that they were satisfied with the intervention (mean score, 4.5 of 5), were likely to recommend it to others (mean score, 4.4), would watch more stories (mean score, 4.1), and that the experience was worth their time (mean score, 4.6). Major themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis included (1) building communal connection through engaging with the stories; (2) positive emotional growth after HCT; (3) value of gaining the other's perspective; and (4) impact of open communication on the patient-caregiver relationship. A web-based DST intervention provides an attractive format through which to deliver a nonpharmacologic psychosocial intervention to HCT patient-caregiver dyads. Watching the emotional content in digital stories may help patients and caregivers cope with psychoemotional challenges together and provide an opportunity for emotional disclosure. Further work on determining optimal paths to disclosure is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520.e1-520.e7
JournalTransplantation and Cellular Therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Caregivers
  • Digital storytelling
  • Dyadic interventions
  • Hematopoietic cell transplantation
  • Narrative
  • Patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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