ILR School

Bedside Manners: Play and Workbook

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[Excerpt] Our goal in the play was to create a balanced work. In Bedside Manners, the reader will find people who communicate poorly and those who communicate well. Although the play focuses primarily on physicians and nurses and the acute-care hospital setting, we have tried to expand the cast of characters to include others on the health care team and to include other settings. As the safety literature documents, poor communication between members of the health care team is not simply an individual problem—a question of a few bad apples spoiling the barrel—but is rather a system problem that stems from how health care has historically developed. Although it is beyond the scope of this commentary to describe that historical development, suffice it to say that the problems of contemporary health care team relationships have a long history and are shaped not only by economics but also by gender, culture, religion, ethnicity, and many other factors. Although our play is meant to stimulate discussion about health care teamwork and suggest ways that doctors, nurses, and others in health care can develop the skills necessary to create and sustain genuine interprofessional teams, it is primarily a work of theater. Its goal is to help those who work in health care approach a very hot topic in a way that is both interesting and even, dare I say it, fun. To accompany the play and make it more user-friendly, Scott Reeves, Lisa Hayes, and I have also written a workbook, which explains the various ways it can be performed, how to mount a performance, and how to lead a discussion or workshop after the play is over. We also explain how to use the play as part of an interprofessional curriculum. Although some in our audiences have scoffed at such a "touchy feely" or unconventional way to present a serious issue, our experience has convinced us that theater is a useful tool to enhance teamwork, patient safety, and also to create more satisfying workplace relationships. Theater has been with humankind since almost the beginning of our history precisely because it is such a powerful tool. It can be used by those in health care who spend their days working with sick, frightened, anxious people, people who are, by definition, not at their best. Under the best of circumstances, their work is beyond difficult. Good communication and teamwork not only produces good patient outcomes; it helps health care professionals care for one another.

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The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press at


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nursing; health care professionals; teamwork


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