Today is the last of three sets of ‘simulations’ that I have been observing as part of our research and development – these are training sessions run by the Nursing department for their student nurses, an opportunity to put their clinical skills to the test in safe but ‘real world’ settings. Today’s ‘sim’ for second year students, recreates the front rooms of three people with obvious medical needs (wound care, diabetes testing, instructions of how to use a nebuliser) – but the student nurses are expected to also pick up clues about their patient’s mental state, not only reading between the lines in their conversations with the patient-actor, but also from the environment. An empty box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts hints at an almost suicidal depression for our bereaved diabetic patient. A crumpled rug represents a trip hazard for an elderly patient on crutches. The simulation set up for Mental Health nurses is dramatic in comparison as we are plunged into a large ‘ward’ of volatile clients. Some of the role-play actors have been embodying their ‘characters’ for many years and they have deep and complex ‘back stories’. The student nurses are presented with complicated and unpredictable behaviours.
The close affinity between medicine and theatre is obvious here. Not just in the actors playing patients, but in the nurses’ performance on their role, in their reading of the staged settings and suspension of disbelief.