A new simulation collaboration between the theater program and NUR 425, Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, is a success. In this learning partnership, students from Professor James McGhee’s advanced acting class come to nursing classes to simulate patients with psychiatric disorders.
By playing the role of the patient, the student/actor demonstrates the symptoms and behavior characteristics of the patient diagnosis being discussed in class. The student/actor is interviewed by nursing faculty in the classroom, not only for the purpose of showing the hallmarks of the disorder, but also to demonstrate ways of communicating with and assessing the patient. In the photo, Dr. Brigitte Haagen (left) interviews "schizophrenic patient" Katie Lamb.
Live simulation provides a form of visual and affective learning that serves as an excellent adjunct to classroom instruction. During the lectures on schizophrenia, theater students Katie Lamb and Heather Rosul demonstrated signs and symptoms associated with the disorder and dressed in the disorganized fashion often seen in persons with cognitive impairments. They also displayed characteristic behaviors that often leave the nursing students with questions about how to respond. For example, while being interviewed, the student/actor abruptly stood up and walked toward the other side of the room. Knowing how to effectively intervene in this type of situation by refocusing the patient in a casual and caring manner can make the difference between an effective intervention versus a failed interaction.
After the interview, classroom discussion was used to help integrate theoretical concepts with clinical application. Nursing students readily identified signs and symptoms of the disorder and aspects of the interview that were effective.
Preparation on part of the student/actors included several steps. They met with the NUR 425 professor to discuss the presentation of symptoms and the interview scenario. They viewed demonstrations of the disorder on YouTube or other sources to help them visualize the role. The students who simulated schizophrenic patient behavior had no prior experience with the disorder. They were impressively effective in portraying the patient in manner of dress, facial expressions, body movements, and speech.
NUR 425 students had numerous positive comments about the simulation. Steve Cillis stated, “This is a great way to learn about schizophrenia because I had never seen anyone with this disorder.” Similarly, Caitlin Bond remarked, “This is a good segue into what we will be seeing in clinical.” Other positive aspects of the demonstration included the opportunity to observe the professor use therapeutic communication to assess and intervene. Kristina Barnable supported this view when she said, “Seeing the instructor interview the patient helped us improve communication skills which are core to our work with all patients.”
Professors Brigitte Haagen and Margaret Marino are pleased with the simulation opportunities and hope to continue the program in the future.