Residency

Theater techniques teach residents interpersonal communication

Residency Program Insider, October 20, 2009

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Although residency programs have been the inspiration for several TV shows, there are few instances where the art of acting has been the inspiration for training residents. But acting techniques have taken center stage for residents at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), according to an Oct. 14th Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

Aaron Anderson, theater professor at VCU, has teamed with Alan Dow, MD, assistant dean for medical education in VCU's School of Medicine to create an interpersonal communication curriculum that uses acting methods to teach residents how to interact with patients. According to the article, residents can use the same techniques as actors to become more aware of their own body language and more attentive to patients. These lessons help resident better care for patients in situations that are often difficult for them to manage, such as breaking bad news or having an end-of-life conversation.

Anderson’s and Dow’s efforts were profiled in a Residency Program Alert article in April 2008. In the RPA article, Dow said that research indicates their unconventional method is working. The physician-actor team published results from its first training course with internal medicine residents in the August 2007 Journal of General Internal Medicine. Using a 10-point scale, observers evaluated residents’ clinical empathy communication and scored it at 8.56, up from a score of 6.88 prior to the training. A control group fell from 6.38 to 5.82 in the same period.



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