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Empathy Training Using Improvisational Comedy: Impact on Multidisciplinary Education among Health Professions Students
Purpose: Determine the impact of improvisation training on
self-reported and observed measures of empathy among a multidisciplinary group
of health professions students
Background: Provider empathy improves patient outcomes. The most
effective technique for promoting empathy remains unknown. Improvisation
training may improve cognitive and affective empathy by enhancing one’s ability
to react to the observed experience of others. Improvisation workshops have
been shown to improve empathy in OB/GYN residents. We aimed to evaluate the
impact this training on self-reported and observed measures of empathy within a
multidisciplinary group of health professions students.
Methods: This is a prospective cohort study of health
professions students who participated in a mixed-methods empathy training
activity (improvisation exercises and case-based scenarios administered by
standardized patient actors before, during, and after the educational component).
Students completed pre- and post-intervention self-reported empathy
questionnaires. Trained patient actors observed student interactions and
completed validated empathy questionnaires following each case-based interaction.
Paired t-tests were used for within-person comparisons over time and ANOVA was
used to compare changes across groups.
Results: Twenty-eight students participated (4 medical; 8
social work; 11 nursing; 5 physical therapy). Self-reported empathy scores
improved significantly from pre- to post-intervention (34.3 vs 38.2, p<
0.0001) although observed empathy scores did not change (43.6 vs 42.9, p=0.65).
When comparing across disciplines, there was no difference in observed empathy
Discussions: Improvisation training improves self-reported but not
observed empathy among a multidisciplinary group of health professions
students. There was no difference in the efficacy of the training workshop
CREOG & APGO Annual Meeting, 2020, Resident, Faculty, Clerkship Director, Clerkship Coordinator, Osteopathic Faculty, Interpersonal & Communication Skills, GME, Assessment, Simulation, Team-Based Learning,