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Doctors should study dance so they are more emotionally in tune with patients, expert says

Night fever? Doctors should study dance so they are more emotionally in tune with patients, expert says


Doctors and nurses should study the arts as part of their training so they are more emotionally in tune with their patients, an expert says.

Professor Christie Watson, an academic and former nurse, said health professionals could learn from theatre, dance and creative writing.

The award-winning author told the Florence Nightingale Foundation that the subjects should be embedded in education programmes. 

And if her call is acted on, medical students may soon be swapping their scrubs for spangles and emulating former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Dr Ranj Singh, of ITV’s This Morning.

Professor Watson, from the University of East Anglia, said she could not separate her writing from nursing because they both ‘hugely influence’ each other. 

Professor Christie Watson, an academic and former nurse, said health professionals could learn from theatre, dance and creative writing. If her call is acted on, medical students may soon be swapping their scrubs for spangles and emulating former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Dr Ranj Singh, of ITV’s This Morning

One of her books, The Language Of Kindness, gives an account of her 20-year nursing career. It has been turned into a stage production. 

She realised nursing is ‘not just chemistry, biology and maths’ when writing it, she said. ‘It’s also politics and it’s poetry and it’s art and I think what the theatre production made me realise is that it’s also theatre and it’s also dance,’ she added.

‘Nursing is a dance and the choreography is really complex.’

Research shows bringing creative writing, film or dance into clinician training improves team-work, empathy and boosts mental health and resilience, the professor of medical and health humanities said. 

‘We should be teaching the arts to clinicians. The understanding of suffering helps us alleviate suffering, so ultimately it’s really good for patient care.’ 

The former paediatric intensive care nurse said the UK is ‘way behind’ on this agenda, noting 80 per cent of medical schools in the US offer students an arts module.

After her talk, Professor Watson told the Nursing Times that bringing the arts into health education ‘creates better clinicians’. 

She said: ‘In this country, we’re sort of starting to get a bit more established with medical humanities.’ 

But she added: ‘I think student nurses and medical students should be writing creatively, studying literature [and] looking at visual art and dance; I really do.’

She also said she wanted an arts module offered to all pre-registration nursing students.

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