Adopting a role: A performance art in the practice of medicine

L Schweickerdt


The practice of medicine has evolved a long way from its origin, where healing was practised as an art in ancient Greece. In current healthcare training, the focus is on clinical features and the treatment thereof. The connection to the arts in the practice of medicine has been lost – one of the reasons why students of medicine lose their empathy during their years of training. In this article, I explore the correlations between the art of performance and medicine, with particular focus on the training of students of medicine. The notion is investigated that if medical students learn to adopt a professional role by incorporating certain non-assuming facets of the art of performance into their training, they could learn to step in and out of the role of healthcare practitioner (HCP). This action could assist them not only in reflecting on their practice as HCPs, but could also afford them the opportunity of debriefing, as they are equipped with the tools to view their role as HCPs more objectively. The acquisition of tools to step in and out of the role of HCP, complemented by the process of debriefing through reflection, could afford students of medicine the ability to deal with the emotional labour that training to become a future HCP brings. In turn, this may empower them to retain the empathy that they inherently possessed when they enrolled as students.

Author's affiliations

L Schweickerdt, Skills Centre, School of Medicine, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa

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History of medicine; Healthcare training; Reflection; Debriefing; Emotional labour; Retainment of empathy

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2018;10(1):3-4. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2018.v10i1.950

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-04-09
Date published: 2018-04-09

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