Hospital staff use theatrical technique to improve care

Emergency department nurses in London find a novel way to improve care.
staff re-enactment

Emergency department nurses have found a novel way to deal with the inevitable stresses of their job.

Colleagues in a London ED learn empathy through drama   Photo: Barney Newman 

A team from Whittington Health NHS Trust in north London have been taking part in a practice development project using a theatrical technique pioneered in Brazil in the 1960s.

The Theatre of the Oppressed was developed by Augusto Boal as a means of promoting social and political change. The audience is encouraged to be active and halt the performance to suggest alternative responses to scenes.

Emergency department (ED) matron and project lead Kerry Wykes said the project, funded by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, had helped nurses work through problems in a safe and creative way.

Helps stress

‘One unexpected benefit was about how a lot of participants felt it helped them deal with the stress of work much better,’ she said.

During a session at the RCN international centenary conference in London on Tuesday, the group performed a short piece set in an ED.

Ms Wykes said a group of nurses, doctors and patient educators took part in three workshops, which were facilitated by students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Now she hopes to make a video that others can use for practice learning, and has plans to tour the performance around other organisations.


ED junior sister Jo Poulter said the project had been a good team-building activity.

‘It was good to get to know each other and it was fun. We were communicating and breaking down ideas.’

Fellow ED junior sister Anifat Yussuf added: ‘We don’t really understand what it’s like to be a patient and this forced us to step back and look at our role as nurses.’