Ohio University

Students heading into healthcare careers benefit from new theater class offered through CoArts’ The Healthy Village

Healthy Village

For two years, Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts faculty have partnered with faculty in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) to offer Interprofessional Healthcare through Creative Arts, a class offered through The Healthy Village and designed to prepare students for healthcare-related careers by applying theater arts techniques.

Now the program boasts two classes, the newest one called Performing Patient Care. This class teaches undergraduate students patient communication and advocacy skills and develops their human-centered social competencies including empathy, compassion, and cultural humility, skills necessary to work professionally in the 21st century. Students engage in exercises in improvisation, active listening, and scene work. While students were initially nervous about the performance aspect of the class, they all rose to the challenge, says Courtney Abbott, an MFA candidate in Acting and the course’s instructor.

“Most of them shared that [while] they felt nervous about public speaking and self-expression, they hoped to improve their empathy and communication skills” through the classwork, Abbott says. “I saw great growth in them over the semester.”

Abbot says the virtual modality of the class, especially for first year and for first-generation students, was challenging. Yet both Abbott and her students remained flexible and open to a creative approach to the work.   

For two years, Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts faculty have partnered with faculty in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) to offer Interprofessional Healthcare through Creative Arts, a class offered through The Healthy Village and designed to prepare students for healthcare-related careers by applying theater arts techniques.

“Everyone had hopes for a certain experience at OHIO this year, and all our expectations have had to change. My biggest take-away is how important it is to remain flexible as a teacher,” Abbott reflects. “I was proud of how creatively everyone worked through it all.”

Abbot recounts one way the students remained engaged and creative while completing their assignments.

Healthy Village

“A beautiful side effect of the restrictions was that when my students created video tutorials for their final projects, a lot of friends, family members, coworkers and pets ended up making guest appearances,” she says.

The Healthy Village is a curricular program organized by the College of Fine Arts’ Ohio Valley Center for Collaborative Arts (CoArts), the School of Theater, and Merri Biechler, director of the School of Theater. It is a learning experience created through collaboration between theater and healthcare professionals and employs skills and techniques from theater, including performance and storytelling, to train students in CHSP and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM). The objective is to supplement students’ clinical training with grounded tools for patient advocacy, interprofessional teamwork, and communication.

The resulting learning experiences help healthcare professionals learn how to hold space for ambiguity and reflection in their work, says Sam Dodd, Director of CoArts.

Put simply, The Healthy Village suggests that theater and healthcare have a lot to learn from each other,” says Dodd.  “Through these classes students get training in teamwork across professions, human-centered communication, and patient advocacy through empathy and cultural humility.”

For more information about CoArts and The Healthy Village, contact Sam Dodd, director of CoArts at dodds1@ohio.edu