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Collaborative Success Stories: The Act of Listening


Female patient and doctor

The Schools of Medicine and Nursing collaborate with the Department of Theatre to improve doctor-patient communication.

A health care provider’s ability to explain, listen and empathize can profoundly affect health outcomes. Poor communication has been estimated as high as 1 in 3 encounters, yet many medical schools provide little communication training. At the University of Missouri, that’s not the case.

With funding from the Susan G. Komen Mid-Missouri Foundation and The Mizzou Advantage initiative, MU’s School of Medicine and Sinclair School of Nursing collaborated with the MU theatre department on a series of short plays depicting cancer patients and medical providers. The interactive plays—in which doctors communicate poorly with their patients—are performed for medical students, who can intervene and create a better rapport between clinician and patient. The project also include performances for nursing students, who learn strategies to provide a more compassionate experience for the patient. An additional audience is cancer survivors and family, some of whom have said the experience taught them how to speak up. “When I saw that behavior on stage,” says one survivor, “I realized I didn’t have to put up with it. I have a new doctor now, and I’m much happier.”

The project was featured on Voice of America, the official broadcast institution of the United States federal government.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine