Elective Years 1 and 2: Communicating Care: A Theatre-Based Approach

Department: Arts & Humanities in Health & Medicine (AHHM) Program, Undergraduate Medical Education

Communicating Care: A Theatre-Based Approach

**NOT OFFERED IN 2020-21**

Location: University of Alberta - TBD
Duration: 12 hours, over a 2-day weekend (Dec 1 & 2, 2018, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm each day)

To sign up for this elective, go to https://goo.gl/forms/KDJAju5NIoqlVVzI3. To request additional information, contact the AHHM Program Coordinator by email ahhm@ualberta.ca or phone (780-492-0445)


In this elective, students are offered an opportunity to learn about themselves and others through experiential theatre exercises, to communicate better with patients.

Theatre practice is founded on awareness of the self as foundational to all aspects of relationship, including communication. Awareness of, and reflection on one's predispositions, implicit beliefs and assumptions can enhance responsiveness to a patient's experience of health and illness.

Two 6-hour sessions on one weekend are scheduled as part of this workshop elective, led by Michele Fleiger, a professional theatre instructor with over 25 years of experience. Each day, participants begin to gather at 8:30 am. The formal workshop session begins at 9:00 am, with a one-hour break for lunch, and ends at 4:00 pm.

A variety of improvisational exercises, sequentially introduced over the course of the weekend, support students in exploring the "art of communication" and enhancing their capacity for authentic presence and responsiveness in their interpersonal interactions. Debriefing discussions provide an opportunity for reflecting on the fundamental value of attention (or mindful awareness) in the establishment of meaningful doctor-patient relationships and more effective clinical encounters.

Medical students, residents and faculty have participated in this elective over the past few years. Students have described these sessions as offering a fun and enjoyable approach to developing insight and enhancing communication skills, particularly in relation to active listening, and verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication.

A pass/ fail grade will be assigned (as per the standard "Assessment of Elective Performance" form), based on attendance and active engagement both days.

Students will be invited to complete a feedback form to help the elective coordinators improve this elective experience for students in subsequent years.


Students will:

1) recognize and appreciate multiple perspectives at play in clinical encounters,

2) learn to recognize and understand nonverbal communication cues,

3) participate in reflective group discussions that consider ways of being that enhance understanding, empathy and responsiveness to others,

4) feel more at ease interacting with, and authentically engaging with others.

Additional Notes:


Maximum enrolment: 25 participants. Depending on space, others within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (3rd and 4th year medical students, residents, students in other health professions education programs, and faculty) are invited to participate in the workshop on a non-credit basis (NB: a letter attesting to your participation can be provided).

Participants should wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows freedom of movement.

Coffee, juice and muffins will be on hand when the room opens at 8:30 am. Through the remainder of the day, participants will be responsible for their own snacks, water bottles, etc. You may elect to bring your own lunch, or enjoy lunch at one of the many places to eat on, or near the UofA campus.

This elective, along with other AHHM electives, exists to support medical students in broadening their intellectual and clinical/ practice-based horizons, in particular with respect to the intersections that exist between the arts and humanities in relation to medicine.

Medical students can complete more than one 12-hour elective in Year 1 and 2.

Optional reference resources:

  • Fleiger, M., Nagji, A., & Brett-MacLean, P. (2016). Performative reflection: A theater elective directed to promoting relational-responsive awareness among medical students. In Peterkin, A. & Brett-MacLean, P. (Eds). Keeping Reflection Fresh: A practical guide for clinical educators. Kent State University Press.

Also see http://www.folio.ca/raising-the-curtain-on-effective-doctor-patient-dialogue

Last Updated: September 7, 2018