Over the last five years I have been working with the National Cancer Network as an actor on their advanced communication skills course for Healthcare Professionals that work in end of life care.
This is, I have to say one of the most rewarding jobs as an actor I have ever had the privilege of doing. I have lost count of the number of courses that I have done but I must have worked with hundreds of Consultants, Nurses, Physios, Speech Therapists, GPs, dieticians, radiologists, Haematologists, dermatologists and many more including Macmillan Nurses that work in the community.
These courses are a tough two days for the ten delegates. They have to bring a communication issue that they have had an issue with in the past with patients, relatives and colleagues, or an issue they can see in the future. They have an hour and half to role play the scenario, usually exploring Anger, upset, Withdrawn and denial. The two groups of five watch small snippets of the interaction, usually 2-3 minutes and comment on things that were working well and then if there are alternatives in the communication that would improve the interaction. The small snippets are videoed as well so the person roleplaying can see the interaction themselves. Within that 90 minutes, people get to rerun the situation around 3 or 4 times. It is incredible the difference it makes just altering a few words and picking up of verbal and none verbal cues from the person opposite you. Gathering peoples concerns before moving on to you agenda. Doing this means that people are more likely to hear what is being told to them, leaving them informed and supported. Not being scared to acknowledge peoples emotions, whatever they may be, helps people focus, giving them time to process the news/situation, this actually speeds up the process with such tight time scales and targets. Seriously LESS IS MORE.
I know that the hundreds of healthcare professionals that I have worked with have gone back to work and implemented some of these techniques meaning that everyone on their cancer journey in their care is heard and supported. Everyone wants to help and solve a physical problems but people also want to be heard and listened to. They are hard conversations to have and emotions are high.
Best quote was from a consultant saying “I had forgotten that I can treat everyone as a human like myself rather than their disease”. If I can make a difference like that and help the thousands of patients that they see on a yearly bases, I have done my job and glad that this training exists. Its a huge privilege as I have said to be a small cog in such a huge machine that cares for Cancer Patients at every stage of there journey.