What are we waiting for? Let’s Build an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Collaboration Course for All Healthcare Students!

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BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsWhat I am proposing is an undergraduate course for all students pursuing careers in any healthcare profession in ‘Medical Improv’ or ‘Applied Improvisation’.   Maybe call it, “Communication and collaboration skills through medical improv”! No pre-req other than for students pursuing careers in healthcare”   It could be a one-day seminar or a 4 credit semester-long course.  It could be required or an elective. Perfect size would be 24-30 although even that could be much bigger with teaching assistants.  If the school has a theatre department, they could participate.

Imagine a classroom with nursing, pre-med, med-tech, health education, social worker, physical, doc nurse handshakeoccupational, and speech therapy students all learning how to speak up and listen to each other, develop critical thinking and emotional intelligence and a wide range of ‘people’ or soft skills.  Not only learning these essential skills but learning them together!  Building relationships for an interdisciplinary network that will span entire careers and expand all over the world.

I’m secretly hoping is that a university leader will get a hold of this post and think:

 This sounds great I want to explore this idea!  I’m going to call or email Beth (Beth@bethboynton.com/603-319-8293) and see about piloting a course this Spring!  She seems pretty passionate about this idea and has been writing about it for a while.  The testimonials from her own pilot workshops seem to support what she is saying.  We sure do need to do something to better prepare our students for the real world of healthcare and even ensure that they are positive change agents!

Nurse colleagues Stephanie Frederick and Candy Campbell have been using ‘Applied Improv’ in workshops and programs are being taught in some medical schools like Northwestern University as a humanities elective taught by Professor Katie Watson with great success in building communication, professionalism, and other ‘medical’ skills.  Assistant Professor Kevin Boesen has been teaching pharmacy students at the University of Arizona with similar results.  And that’s not all!

Applied Improv is a hot topic!

Alan Alda is doing it with Stonybrook for scientists. Boston Children’s Hospital is using actors for building empathy in docs. Northwestern University piloted the first ever train the train the trainer workshop in Medical Improv in June 2013 (One of the most amazing professional experiences I’ve ever had!).  Some of us participated in a full length video to describe the process and it’s importance in patient safety, patient experience, and career satisfaction.

stage curtainWith >1000 preventable deaths every day in US hospitals, it is time to do something different!


And btw, I’d be very grateful if you would share this post with HC educational leaders you know! Thanks!



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