A nursing student attends a "patient" as part of a partnership between the School of Nursing and the performing arts and social justice department that uses acting students to play patients during nursing students’ clinical training.
Mr. Smith, 78, sat on his hospital bed, but he didn’t want to be there.
He didn’t know where he was, no one was answering his questions, and he
didn’t understand why nurses were examining him. Determined to get out
of bed, he got himself to the edge of the bed and promptly fell to the
floor. The nurses—USF nursing students—were stunned.
the “patient” was a student actor and the entire scenario was a
simulation designed to teach nursing students about the risk and
prevention of patient falls. The scenario came about because of an
innovative partnership between the School of Nursing and the performing
arts and social justice department that uses acting students to play
“standardized patients” during part of nursing students’ clinical
Long a staple of medical schools, the use of
standardized patients is relatively new in nursing education. The
School of Nursing uses mannequins throughout students’ clinical
training, but the presence of a live person can make the situation seem
more credible and give the future nurses the chance interact with
patients in ways not possible when practicing on mannequins. The
nursing students learn that nursing is about more than having good
technical skills; it also means attending to patients’ non-medical
needs and displaying empathy.
“I think this is a perfect
embodiment of why you go to a 4-year liberal arts Jesuit university to
become a nurse,” said Susan Prion, assistant professor of nursing.
Prion and Judith Lambton, associate professor of nursing, worked with
the performing arts and social justice department to create the
partnership, which began last year.
But it’s not just the
nursing students learning from the experience. Acting students such as
senior Rochelle Lozano also have the chance to work on their craft.
overall experience was fun, exciting, and made me realize that I am
capable of fully engaging as a character in a hospital scene with
extreme medical conditions,” Lozano said. “I actually felt like the
real patient and thought like one also, such as how I am actually
feeling with pain throughout my body, not being able to see my family
and friends and being confined.”
Lozano and other students in
Ken Sonkin’s second-year acting class, which focuses on character
development, received three character briefs, each one describing a
particular patient’s situation (including Mr. Smith’s). The acting
students then had several weeks to fully develop the characters using a
variety of acting methodologies, including studying people of different
genders, social classes, and ages. About 10 students were selected to
play the characters for the nursing students, combining their research
with their improvisation skills to focus on one goal—getting out of bed.
nursing students, by contrast, were given relatively little
information. As in a real hospital situation, they simply knew the
patients’ basic medical information. And while they knew they needed to
prevent the patients from falling, the nursing students often were so
focused on performing necessary head-to-toe assessments, they missed
patients’ efforts to get out of bed until it was too late.
nursing students had studied falls prevention in the classroom and, in
theory, knew what to do, but putting it into practice was a very
different experience—one that is likely to stick with them. Before the
simulation, students took a pre-test about their knowledge of falls
prevention. Afterwards, they took the same test and scored dramatically
higher. What’s more, Prion said, comments from the nursing students
highlight the impact of using standardized patients.
“A lot of
information was simply backed up for me,” a student wrote in an
evaluation. “I had learned it in theory, but had yet to apply it to the
clinical setting…Most of all, I learned that I still have a lot more to
learn.” Another student wrote that the most helpful part of the
experience was “the live acting because it made the experience very
real, forcing us to ‘act out’ what we would do rather than say what we
would do. Doing it is harder than saying you’ll do it!”
For the actors, the experience has also been an opportunity to do more than entertain.
only did the actors feel like they were truly serving another
department on campus, but they also saw how their acting skills could
be put to use other than for mere entertainment,” Sonkin said.