College of Science, Technology, and Health

Using Applied Improvisation Skills to Train Healthcare Professionals

April 7, 2022
12:30 PM to 1:15 PM
204 Payson Smith Hall, Portland Campus
Two people gesturing toward each other, with others seated in the background

Erin McCall, lecturer in occupational therapy, presents on Using Applied Improvisation Skills to Help Train Healthcare Professionals for the Complex Communication Demands Needed in Their Clinical Future.

The use of "applied improvisation," where improvisational theater games are used in settings outside of the theater to help practice communication and flexible thinking skills, is now being used to train healthcare professionals in a new field called "medical improv." Healthcare workers need to become skilled at working with unexpected, complex and fast-paced decision making and clinical scenarios. Training new healthcare workers to "think on their feet" in a way that creates helpful responses to patients and teammates is crucial for the success of our healthcare system. Yet training future clinicians to be ready for these complex interactions presents challenges in educational training programs.

Medical improvisation can be a useful, fun and engaging way to practice the flexible thinking and communication skills needed to succeed in clinical settings. My clinical doctoral capstone project looks at teaching occupational therapy students medical improvisation skills to see if this technique impacts their perceived sense of confidence/anxiety while working with standardized patients in a classroom setting. Medical improv skills are now being taught in a variety of healthcare training programs around the world including medical schools, nursing programs, allied health and pharmacy programs. Come hear how this program is getting started at USM.

Erin McCall is a lecturer in the USM Occupational Therapy department. She is in her final semester of her post-professional clinical doctorate in occupational therapy. She has been practicing OT for over 20 years with experience in diverse settings, including: vocational rehabilitation, pediatric mental health, employee health and wellness, geriatric home health, case management and program development. She has also been performing and teaching improv for the past 10 years. When not working, Erin spends time hiking, dancing, creating stories around campfires, teaching well-being skills, and reading next to her cat.