From ‘spectating’ to ‘spect-acting’: medical students’ lived experiences of online Forum Theatre training in consulting with domestic abuse victims

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Health care professionals, including general practitioners, have an important role in the care of those affected by domestic abuse. Therefore, it is important that healthcare professionals are adequately trained in recognising features of domestic abuse and supporting victims in disclosure. Founded by Augusto Boal, Forum Theatre is a drama methodology that can permit an experiential and immersive learning experience; lending itself well to a subject matter of oppressed individuals. In this study we aimed to gain a deep understanding of medical students' lived experiences of training in consulting with individuals who experienced domestic abuse using an online format of forum theatre.

A multidisciplinary team developed an online forum theatre training exercise, which involved a simulated consultation between a general practitioner and domestic abuse victim. Our qualitative approach used hermeneutic phenomenology to explore the participants' lived experiences of this training. Following the online forum theatre experience, we analysed 11 participant interviews using template analysis to structure the phenomenological interpretation.

We developed five themes through our analytical process: 1) 'Almost being there…but not quite': the realistic experience of forum theatre; 2) 'Taken on an emotional journey' 3) 'Opening and controlling a privileged space'; 4) 'Small things matter…': cultivating and maintaining rapport and 5) Critically reflecting on future professional self.

This study offers fine-grained insights into medical students' experiences of an online immersive forum theatre training exercise in consulting with individuals who have been affected by domestic abuse. Online forum theatre has the potential to provide a simulated and meaningful approach to train medical students about domestic abuse. By providing students with a unique opportunity to step into a General Practitioner's shoes in a domestic abuse consultation, students can practise how they manage a consultation with an impacted individual through a safe, guided, and experiential approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalAdvances in Simulation
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2022


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