Drama to promote non-verbal communication skills

Martina Kelly, Lara Nixon, Kirsten Broadfoot, Marianna Hofmeister, Tim Dornan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Nonverbal communication skills (NVCS) help physicians deliver relationship centered care and effective use is associated with improved patient satisfaction, better use of health services and high quality clinical care. In contrast to verbal communication skills, NVCS training is underdeveloped in health care professions communication curricula. One of the challenges teaching NVCS is their tacit nature. In this study, we evaluated drama exercises to raise awareness of NVCS by making familiar activities ‘strange’.

Workshops based on drama exercises were designed to heighten awareness of sight, hearing, touch and proxemics in nonverbal communication. These were conducted at eight medical education conferences, 2014-2016 and open to all conference participants. Workshops were evaluated by recording narrative data generated during the workshops and an open-ended questionnaire following the workshop. Data were analysed qualitatively, using thematic analysis.

One hundred and twelve participants attended workshops, of whom 73 (65%) completed an evaluation form: 56 physicians, 9 medical students and 8 non-physician faculty staff. Two themes were described: increased awareness of NVCS and the importance of NVCS to relationship building. Drama exercises enabled participants to experience NVCS such as sight, sound, proxemics and touch, in novel ways. Participants reflected on how NCVS contribute to developing trust and building relationships in clinical practice.

Drama based exercises elucidate the tacit nature of NVCS and require further evaluation in formal educational settings.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Teacher
Early online date23 May 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 23 May 2018


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