Compassion and empathy are interpersonal qualities that are triggered and developed when we are able to step into another person’s shoes. However, it is often difficult for nursing students to gain insights into patients’ personal experiences of illness because they are either busy learning theory or practising technical interventions.
So just how might a nursing educator approach such a dilemma?
Ann Framp grappled with this challenge in her role as an educator at the University of the Sunshine Coast. The method that she decided to explore, utilise and evaluate with students was the use of popular movies, or films more generally, to sensitise and awaken affective skills needed for nursing practice.
According to Ann:
‘it is difficult for students to understand about human problems within a classroom, especially with limited opportunities to encounter practicum placement. Some students have not had a lot of life experience, therefore may not have had many opportunities to think about compassion and empathy and the importance of it.’
Ann considered the transformative education theory (see people such as Mezirow) and the S.T.A.R. framework developed by McAllister (2012). She really wanted to help the students to consider the person’s illness, appreciate their personal experience of navigating the health system, and develop empathy and compassion for it. The whole approach of S.T.A.R. helped Ann work out a strategy.
And that is where films come in.
Watch the video and join in the discussion by answering questions below, or put your own point of view forward.
Susie is Vivian’s primary nurse. In this scene we see a rare experience of compassionate and collaborative care. The film appears to be critical of the more dominant approach to care which was to be paternalistic and patronising.
Do you think it is helpful/or unhelpful to suggest that compassionate care is not often demonstrated in acute care? Discuss.
Ann deepened students thinking about this film by setting an assignment. Students were directed to use one element of Gibb’s reflective learning cycle and discuss an event that occurred in the film and relate the learning to clinical practice.
What would you invite students to explore and discuss from this excerpt?
Ann suggests that films have some unique benefits for teaching nursing. They provide ready ‘snapshots’ of lived experiences that can be used to more easily explain difficult concepts, promote discussion, and importantly, awaken emotions.
As one student commented after viewing the film Wit and its depiction of the trauma undergone by a cancer patient with no family support, ‘[t]his made me acutely aware of the immense responsibility nurses have to act as advocates for patients, especially those with no family’.
In this sense, it can be seen how films work by helping ‘bring issues to life’ in the classroom, especially for students trying to understand the full nature of the nursing profession while having minimal practical experience.
Of course there is no suggestion that films are in themselves reality, but they do offer versions of the real world that are very powerful. In this instance, Wit, the film that Ann uses in her teaching, is based on a true story and although the events depicted throughout may have been exaggerated to satisfy the requirements of commercial filmmaking, the situations explored are similar to those that may occur for some patients in their encounters with healthcare providers.
For Ann, the overall aim of using the film was to encourage nursing students to feel something for how a patient might be feeling and to reflect on how they might approach similar situations if they encountered them in the future.
As the comment from the student above with reference to Wit illustrates, the right film can certainly succeed on that level.
For educators like Ann, using films aids the use of the STAR framework for creating powerful and memorable lessons in that they are able to highlight to students the need to Sensitise, Take Action and engage in Reflection in their learning practices and approach to patient care.
Ann states, ‘I have found using films in the classroom creates a very engaging and memorable experience for students. It is difficult for students who have had minimal practical experience to understand the profession within a classroom so films bring issues to life.’
There are helpful websites for you to select films on various topics you believe students need to develop awareness in. Visit the Teach With Movies website at the address below to help you find more:
Have you used films in your teaching that were particularly effective for triggering discussion or raising awareness?
We invite you to share your ideas, opinions and experiences on one or more of the following discussion topics. New topics are always welcome.
- How might an educator empower students to gain insights into patients’ personal experiences of illness?
- Have you used films in your teaching that were particularly effective for triggering discussion or raising awareness?
- Nugent and Shaunessy (2010) discourage the use of an entire film during class. However, what are the relative merits of showing the whole movie versus selected clips?
- Why is a film like Wit able to augment knowledge, values and skills required for clinical practice?
Gibbs, G. (1988).Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford Polytechnic: Further Educational Unit.
Harper, R. & Rogers, L. (1999).Using feature films to teach human development concepts. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 38(2), 89 – 97.
Levett-Jones, T. (ed). (2013).Clinical reasoning: Learning to think like a nurse, Frenchs Forest: Pearson.
McAllister, M. (2012). STAR: A transformative learning framework for nursing education. Journal of Transformative Education. 9, 42-58.
Nichols, M. (2001). Wit. Hollywood: HBO.
Nugent, S. & Shaunessy, E. (2010).Using film in teaching training: Viewing the gifted through different lenses. Roeper Review, 25 (3), 128 – 134.
Teach With Movies, http://www.teachwithmovies.org/