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Innovative Partnership Project with the Northern Ontario Medical School Animated Communications Training For Northern Ontario Medical Students At Debajehmujig’s Creation Centre - February 2013

Second year students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine(NOSM) spend a month in two different rural communities.   During this time, learners participate in four Community Learning Sessions(CLS).   In the past, students have spent time with pharmacists, chiropractors, dieticians, traditional healers and in tele-ophthalmology visits.  In the 110 session of the NOSM curriculum, the themes of study include cognition, mood, and memory and mental illness.  The students are also expected to practice the Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation (SBAR) tool, a means of passing on patient information.

We theorized that sessions with a local group of storytellers/animators may provide an interesting opportunity to enhance communication skills in challenging situations, while understanding more about how community arts organizations may be engaging in the health of their communities.

We designed a pilot project where students from four sites on Manitoulin Island joined actors from Debajehmujig. They explored themes of mental illness and social disadvantage, while doing mock patient interviews, with fellow healthcare professionals  and of understanding the roles that arts groups may play within their communities.

  First we established what animators would need to clearly “show” in order to demonstrate the conditions we were asked to characterize. These were anxiety, depression, cognitive decline. The layers of experience for each character were explored, some designed specifically including foundational issues that resulted in relative or absolute homelessness.

Each character was constructed with a minimum of three layers of experience each of which could be accessed depending on the questions being asked by the 110 student. The social context in which each condition was occurring was constructed with special consideration given to cross cultural issues in Northern health care, regional economic realities and the S BAR tool used by the NOSM students to determine likely causes of the problems presented.

We determined two justifications for each presenting condition – for example the animator depicting “cognitive decline” could choose which justification they were going to play in the moment. The cognitive decline scenario had two possible back stories, one involved an industrial accident, the other involved an increasing series of outcomes from untreated diabetes, some of which resulted in the appearance of cognitive decline.

The animators were asked to improvise within the set of parameters given to show the “condition” – so that neither the artist or medical student could fall into a pattern of response. Animators were asked to pay attention to how they were engaging the “Doctor” and what was their internal response to the questions that were asked, the tone, posture, rate of speech etc.

Four scenario stations were constructed to accommodate eight medical students working in pairs. Three scenario stations presented characters with medical conditions. The forth station explored communications through a series of neuro linguistic exercises. All students experienced each scenario and was facilitated in applying their S BAR tool.

Local geography meant considerable travel was required from the 3 groups of students, so a change to a single day format would be preferable.  This would also enhance the discussions regarding past healthcare themed community engagement projects from the animators. The improvisational technique may deepen the learning through a greater intensity of the patient interaction.  A greater benefit for the students in the future related to their appreciation of the storytellers may include a discussion from the animators of their preparation for the event.