21 May

Arts-Based Training – Creating Unstoppable Nurses

Arts-Based Training for Nurses

Arts-Based Training in Healthcare

Florence Nightingale, arguably the most famous nurse in history, proclaimed that the nursing profession was both an art and a science. To the casual observer, these two disciplines could not be more opposed, yet the meeting of science and art has led to some remarkable advancements. This blog discusses the convergence of theatre and health and how 2engage CIC used arts-based training as an intervention to build the capacity of undergraduate student nurses.

Early in 2024, our team of expert facilitators led a series of week-long intensive theatre-based training programmes with over 300 nurses. Initially designed to prepare nurses for medical simulation – a pivotal aspect of nursing education, the sessions evolved beyond their initial objective. Daily evaluations highlighted an opportunity to go further and provide a more enriching experience.

Student nurses reported an improved appreciation of the complex nature of communication. Some of the feedback included recognising unconscious biases, understanding the significance of non-verbal cues, acknowledging diverse perspectives, and navigating conflicts, all garnered from their own clinical experiences and original scenarios our team used as provocations. The cohort of student nurses had varying levels of clinical experience, some still teenagers and others with decades of experience in the healthcare sector.

In 2019, Hafford-Letchfield et al. published research discussing arts-based pedagogies in nurse education, asserting that active engagement in the arts benefits and enhances care environments, and contributes to staff retention and continuing professional development.

Arts-based nurse training enables the necessary intersection between healthcare and art, however, notions of drama and theatre come with preconceptions of performance and acting, which can be triggering. Building on one of the pillars of the NHS – the nurse-to-nurse relationship – we build connections between each nurse and bolster their confidence. Our facilitators do not merely develop nurses’ acting proficiency, rather, they delve into countless human interactions, and subtle transactions inherent in nursing – the art of the nursing profession.

Theatrical and arts-based approaches are well-placed to enable student nurses to develop the vital soft skills needed to communicate effectively. Some benefits of drama-based training in nursing education include; communication skills – allowing nurses to practice communicating in difficult situations such as patient interactions and moments of conflict; empathy – techniques like roleplay and hot seating can help the nurses foster empathy; self-awareness – through reflection and experimentation, students develop self-awareness and identify areas for growth, bolstering confidence and decision-making; teamwork – nurses work together to solve problems through improvisation methods that challenge nurses to make real-time decisions, which prepares them for the fast-paced, high-pressure environments they will encounter in the NHS.

This project showed some promising results and makes a bold case for arts-based training in healthcare. Participant feedback has been an integral component in helping us refine and develop our methods. This project was also observed by a team of academic researchers who will focus on the value of arts-based pedagogies compared to traditional teaching methods.

This project took place at the University of Chester, across the Warrington, Shrewsbury, Chester, and Birkenhead campuses from January – April 2024. For more information, please contact ed@2engage.co.uk