Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Role Playing

Today, in our 3rd day of med school, we were introduced to clinical role playing. Clinical role playing is a form experiential teaching where the students act out a particular scenario with a standardized patient (an actor).

Today the clinical role playing focused on harrasment. For example, one scenario involved a patient who wanted to meet with her doctor privately to discuss a personal issue. Upon meeting with the doctor, she professed that she was in love with him and wanted to begin a romantic relationship (this violates all kinds of doctor/patient boundaries of course). One of us played the role of the doctor in this situation and the actor was the patient. The scene played out, the actor left, and then we discussed what we thought about the situation, provided feedback to the student who played the doctor, and discussed different ways to deal with this kind of scenario (which apparently happens more than I would expect).

I am interested in seeing how well this "clinical role playing" training prepares us for similar real-world scenarios. I certainly do believe that role playing the scenario is better than simply reading the scene and then having a discussion. However, I think it is much easier to act out a scene in the ideal, ethical way, and it is much more challenging to follow the same course of action when we are actually living the scenario.

For example, in the aforementioned scene with the female patient, we did not have to worry about hurting the patient's feelings when we refused her requests because we knew she was an actor. If the scenario was real, we would have to worry about our patient's future medical care after rejecting her because she would obviously need to see a new doctor after coming admitting her feelings. I suppose the clinical role playing is aimed at getting us to think about these kinds of issues, but I still think role playing will give some of us a false sense of confidence in our abilities to handle the scenarios once we are out seeing patients.

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