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OBJECTIVE: To assess whether medicine residents can learn clinical empathy techniques from theater professors.
DESIGN: A controlled trial of a clinical empathy curriculum taught and assessed by 4 theater professors. SETTING: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, a large urban university and health system. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty Internal Medicine residents: 14 in the intervention group, 6 in the control group. INTERVENTION: Six hours of classroom instruction and workshop time with professors of theater. MEASUREMENTS: Scores derived from an instrument with 6 subscores designed to measure empathy in realtime patient encounters. Baseline comparisons were made using two-sample T tests. A mixed-effects analysis of variance model was applied to test for significance between the control and intervention groups. RESULTS: The intervention group demonstrated significant improvement (p≤.011) across all 6 subscores between pre-intervention and post-intervention observations. Compared to the control group, the intervention group had better posttest scores in 5 of 6 subscores (p≤.01).
LIMITATIONS: The study was neither randomized nor blinded.
CONCLUSIONS: Collaborative efforts between the departments of theater and medicine are effective in teaching clinical empathy techniques.
Title: Using Theater to Teach Clinical Empathy: A Pilot Study
Publication: Journal of general internal medicine