Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

The Intersection of Medicine and Art

This article from The Guardian takes a look at an emerging school of thought called “Performing Medicine” that couples medical training with dance and theatre.  It mentions how it can often be “‘quite hard to get doctors to realise there’s an art to medicine… Because to some extent it’s been pummelled out by science.'”  So St Thomas’ hospital in London has begun implementing a program that will train doctors and nurses in a physical theatre style.  This will bring a type of reality to their training that goes beyond medical knowledge to help incorporate a necessary level of compassion when dealing with patients, and to teach improvisation skills as they deal with realistic medical emergencies. St. Thomas’ Dr Peter Jaye who works for the Simulation and Interactive Learning Centre (SaIL) says that “the most important thing theatre and dance techniques can impart in training is humanity.”

Along with this program for doctors and nurses, they are also reaching out to patients by bringing art to them. They bring dance into the hospital room for the patients to get an up-close and personal artistic experience. The article states that: “There is a growing body of evidence that artistic interventions can be beneficial for patients” and that the “close proximity of the audience, their lack of expectations and, most poignantly, performing in a place where people are acutely aware of their own bodies, adds up to something profound.”

I love this initiative and I look forward to the day we really start to see this kind of collaboration between art and science become standard. Hospitals can often feel sterile and scary, especially for children. This could change the way that we think about medicine and how we interact with medical professionals. It brings a whole new meaning to art as a healing force and really opens the door for creative placemaking.

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About Jenni

My name is Jenni. I am a writer, dreamer, and theatre enthusiast. I love life. I love to travel. I love to laugh. And I think life is beautiful. Follow my Twitter: @imRoseNCrantz

2 comments on “The Intersection of Medicine and Art

  1. laurenelizabethdickel
    November 5, 2014

    This is certainly an interesting concept. I really love my doctors to be obsessed with perfection, even at the cost of some bedside manors ( not all of course), so at first I found myself skeptical of the idea. .. However, after reading the article/ website and understanding that the dance courses are a tool for creating a heightened body and self awareness for the doctors, I can see what they are trying to do. I think its a wonderful took to help take some of the edge off of body language in stressful situations.
    That said, I think there still needs to be much more discipline in learning to be a doctor than art. Doctors should be afraid to make mistakes…
    sorry if I sound harsh.

    The idea of in hospital performers has been around quite some time, and while I think it can be good there is a very delicate balance. When my grandma was in the hospital last spring, there was this super sweet guitar player wandering around playing for people. He was nice, but honestly after about 5 mins it was very annoying and distracting. While we wanted to just have time alone with our family, this guy just kept wandering around the halls playing on his guitar and banjo.. pretending everything was okay…

    I say, these ideas are good, but everything in moderation and the artists that come MUST be trained to be hyper sensitive to the delicate situations often found in hospitals.

  2. Samantha Sobash
    November 6, 2014

    I think this partnership is powerful in that it practices improvisation skills of doctors which is highly relevant to their field. But I’m a bit weary of the type of preparation the artists are given to participate in the doctors’ training. The article talks about “the neutral mask” technique which I’m not familiar with, but it seems like it would be really challenging for the artists to truly embody a patient’s experience. I’m curious to learn how valuable this practice is for the doctors during their training. It is definitely different to work with live bodies than mannequins after all.

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