The medical profession revolves around interactions between people. Improv depends on strong interactions between people. From the GP consultation through to the team working in an operating theatre, communication is at the heart of a health profession that is efficient, accountable and ultimately improves patient’s health. From my own experience, I know that I respond better to someone I trust and who I believe is genuinely listening to my needs than to someone who seems disengaged. Improvisation seemed like a natural fit to bring into a medical training environment, and I was fortunate enough to do just that recently as part of the GP training program for Mid Sussex. This was the next step in our Medical Improv journey.
We decided to use musical improv as an extra challenge to really put the participants in a challenging situation although it quickly became apparent to them that skill and tuneful singing were far less important than participation and fun. We do not see fun and laughter as frivolous, rather as a way to ease people’s fears and create a supportive atmosphere. Here is Dr. Hugo Wilson, the program director for the course describing the atmosphere:
We were nervous but the build up to the singing session made this seem very natural and not uncomfortable at all. The facilitators created a very safe scene for us all to be playful with words and ideas through playing games in a circle, and hence gaining the trust of everyone in the group. When it came to the singing, we were all still giggling from the last game, so the volunteers were quick to rise from their chairs
Response from Participants
It was thrilling to see people’s confidence improve and see their individuality and personality come shining through. There were some hilarious moments, but also some very touching and personal ones too. I like to think that we are creating new interactions between future GPs who may well be relying on each other’s experience and knowledge further down the line. Having a shared experience and showing vulnerability are short cuts to building lasting relationships. This is from Belinda Fu, a medical improv expert and founder of www.improvdoc.org:
With improv skills, clinicians can communicate effectively and work collaboratively in teams. By listening, supporting, leading, and following, clinicians can strengthen teams, resolve conflicts, facilitate projects, and build camaraderie.
We were only delivering a taster session in medical improv, and it continually surprises me how quickly improvisation training can cut straight to the fundamental skills of listening, trust and commitment while dressed up in games, exercises scenes and laughter. I am keen to deliver a more sustained program to really embed the improvisation way of being. I have seen the transformation in people across all sectors and am excited that this could be replicated in the medical profession. Dr. Hugo Wilson again:
As a GP one of the key skills are being flexible in your response to people in front you, whether to their demands, worries, or challenging emotions, it certainly helps to keep a natural flow. In GP Education we practice a lot of consultation skills, with escalating levels of challenge for trainees throughout their 3 year program. Improv allows trainees to gain a better understanding of how creative thinking and flexibility can really benefit communication with our patients, through retaining humanity in our interactions.
With the rise of improvisation in the UK, and the increased awareness of the benefits of more experiential training across all sectors, I am sure that improv is going to find its way into the medical profession in a profound and meaningful way over the next few years.
If you would like to know more about medical improv or enquire about how improvisation could work for you as a human, or as part of a team of professionals, please get in touch.