Drama-based resources help Kingston University nursing students to cope with coronavirus pandemic

A set of drama-based resources to help Kingston University, London nursing students working during the Covid-19 pandemic have been put together through a collaboration with world-leading performing arts school Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London.

During the Covid-19 pandemic a set of drama-based resources have been put together through a collaboration between Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the School of Nursing at Kingston University.

The free online learning materials came as a result of a partnership between the institutions, inspired by nurses doctoral programme leader at Guildhall School of Music & Drama Dr Alex Mermikides met while her brother Milton was treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia - a serious type of blood cancer. They were put together digitally for the first time as part of a research initiative due to the coronavirus crisis, which has seen teaching move online.

Kingston University adapted its nursing programmes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure students continue to progress on their programme. A number of innovative online activities have been developed to support them during this time. Many of the University's students have been successfully deployed into practice in-line with the United Kingdom's Nursing and Midwifery Council guidance and the support of Health Education England.

Undergraduates going out to practice to the pandemic have access to the Drama out of a Crisis online pack, which offers tips, videos and podcasts on how to manage unexpected situations, how to cope with a new environment, learning new routines quickly and building relationships with colleagues quickly. Developed with input from performing artists, it shares strategies that are part of a performers' job, like learning lines and routines quickly, bonding with colleagues and coping with stage fright and other strong emotions. Nurses are very busy, the format is designed to be absorbed quickly, according to Dr Mermikides, a former lecturer in drama at Kingston University.

Students can read a page and understand it in three minutes. If they have 10 minutes, they could watch one of the videos. They will learn techniques that take just 2 minutes or even 30 seconds, but can make them feel more confident or secure. For example, there's a video by a composer about how sound in a hospital can affect the way you feel and how to develop a way of listening so they, or their patients, aren't overwhelmed by sound."

Dr Alex Mermikides

A second pack, Careful Encounters, has been offered to nursing students whose learning has moved to online teaching, as an adjunct to some of the learning in interpersonal and communications skills. The students watch a 90 minute theatre performance created by Dr Mermikides, and then answer questions raised by it - allowing them to reflect on their emotion, care and empathy as a nurse.

The partnership between the University's School of Nursing and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama began in 2016 after Dr Mermikides contacted associate professor in clinical skills and simulated learning at Kingston University, Sally Richardson and now retired Senior Lecturer Terry Firth. Together, they created a series of workshops which the adult nursing students participate in as part of the Nursing practice modules. These adapt techniques usually used to train actors, in order to support learning in non-verbal communication, high stakes situations and using the voice to project leadership and responsibility. The workshops have now been inducted into the core curriculum.

"We wanted to give our student nurses the opportunity to think and learn differently," Mrs Richardson explained. "The workshops enable students time to reflect on themselves as a nurse and their interactions with their patients, families and team," she said.

The collaboration also led to a professional performance, called Careful, which was created by Dr Mermikides, her composer brother and a group of performers.

The show is about nurses' feelings, something that is not always acknowledged but can have a big impact on patient care and on the nurses' own wellbeing. It was put together with the help of students who shared some of their own experiences and feelings about their professional role. of the nurse. "The show is based on interactions between nurses and their patients, but you only see the nurses - you have to imagine the patient based on how the nurse talks to them. This helps exercise empathy and close listening. It also casts attention on the nurse rather than the patient. We also use dance to show the feelings of a nurse in an abstract way," Dr Mermikides said.

The feedback from students on the workshops and performances has been overwhelmingly positive and has led to the materials being rolled out to other nursing schools across the country. A survey of workshop participants showed that 85 per cent of participants reported some form of attitude or behaviour change when in practice following on from workshops. "Even the simple things like the way someone looks at another person or sitting down next to a patient rather than standing over them makes a real difference," Dr Mermikides said.

"Nurses are busy and can easily rush from one thing to another, feedback has shown that some students now stop and take a moment before doing something, taking time to think and compose themselves before interacting," Mrs Richardson said.

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