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An Ulster University research study is educating nursing students in applied drama techniques, to help improve the quality of care given to patients.

This innovative project has attempted to address growing concern within the National Health Service (NHS) about the quality of the ‘patient experience’, by seeking to further enhance the communication skills of Adult and Mental Health Nursing students. This is being achieved by adapting techniques from actor training, applied drama, puppetry and the use of simulation.

The key findings of the research show that:

  • Specific techniques derived from drama training provided nurses with a systematic approach in how to improve the quality of care given to patients generally.
  • Awareness of risk management among nursing students e.g. infection risks, drug management risks, and pressure sore risks among the student nurses, improved due to enhanced clinical skills.
  • The training has led to increased confidence among the individual nursing students. Through their role play students can experience real life situations and scenarios which are considered difficult or stressful.

The study makes a number of recommendations including, that such innovative educational approaches should be embedded into the curriculum for all nursing and medical students, early in their programme.

This collaborative project has now become the focus of PhD research that is being carried out by Karl Tizzard-Kleister at Ulster University.

Pat Deeny, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Ulster University said:

“Communication is a major challenge in modern health care and this is fully recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Too many patients still do not feel empowered in interactions with healthcare professionals. Fundamentally patients and clients report that they are not being heard or understood even though they are the ‘people of experience’. It is clear that there is a need for this type of innovative approach at Ulster University to tackle such failings.”

Dr Matt Jennings, Lecturer in Drama at Ulster University said:

“The initial aim of the project was to build confidence among final year students in their ‘role play’ assessments, which are used to evaluate clinical skills. As the project, has progressed however, we have developed a toolkit for nursing students which will help to improve the performance of care given to patients in the future.”

Gary Rutherford, Ulster University nursing graduate:

“Using the drama workshops to improve role play assessments helped to build my confidence and self-awareness, which are both essential skills in nursing. I found the experience valuable as it helped to bring the role play to life enabling a more effective assessment of our progress.”