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Medical Improv Training Hones Doctor-Patient Skills

by Jul 17, 2013

Home » Faculty Achievements » Medical Improv Training Hones Doctor-Patient Skills

medical improv training drama comedy masksCreative play-acting can improve a physician’s sense of compassion, communication skills and diagnostic abilities – so say advocates of improvisational theater training for health professionals.

National University faculty member, Stephanie Draus, ND, is now qualified to lead classes and workshops in the Watson/Northwestern Method of Medical Improv.

Created by Professor Katie Watson of Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, this theatre-based approach helps medical students and professionals improve their skills in communication, collaboration and empathy.

At a recent medical improv seminar held by Northwestern-Feinberg Medical School, Dr. Draus was the only ND and only “alternative” practitioner participating.  “This was a great opportunity to represent our professions in a mixed specialty setting,” says Dr. Draus.

Dr. Draus has already been using some improv exercises in her naturopathic counseling classes at NUHS.  She also gave a presentation on the topic at a conference of the Society for Arts in Healthcare in May, 2012. She has a long history of improvisational performance and enjoys using her theatrical skills in the service of medical education.

“An example of an improv exercise I use here at National University involves having the students ‘walk’ as different people. For example, I tell them to: walk like a doctor, walk like a person with low back pain, walk like a 65-year old woman, or walk like someone suffering from Parkinson disease,” says Dr. Draus. ” This gives them a sense of somebody else’s experience of life and how different health conditions can change that person’s perspective.”

“The walking exercise also corresponds to what they’re learning in pathology classes.  They learn about antalgic postures, or moving away from the site of pain.  They start to understand how observing their patients’ walk and stance can give important clues to where the pain is,” says Dr. Draus.

At National University, medical improv is one of many interactive curriculum components that provide a framework for learning beyond the textbook, and prepares students for better doctor-patient interactions in their future careers.

(Read more about using medical improv in health care education in this journal article by Professor Katie Watson.)

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