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New Nursing and Theatre Collab Creates Unique Course Offering for Students

Curry students combine healthcare and acting in new course
November 08, 2023


Academics | Student Success

Curry students now have the opportunity to take a unique new course that combines healthcare and…wait for it…ACTING?!

No, you read that right, the School of Nursing recently received a grant to build a unique simulated participant program that trains students to act as patients in real-life clinical scenarios.

NBC10 Boston Video Story: Healthcare acting? New Curry College program has students posing as patients

The course is called Healthcare Acting: Acting the Patient Role in which students learn how to perform as simulated participants like patients, families, and health care workers. Students learn to give objective feedback in standardized, real-life healthcare scenarios that assess and train hands-on nursing skills and interpersonal communication skills of health care providers.

The course is co-taught by Curry Theatre Professor Marcy Holbrook and School of Nursing Professor KatherineMarie Conover, RN, CNE, CHSE. The two faculty members alternate to teach their respective “sides” of the course – Dr. Conover deals with the actual simulations and the nursing side, while Professor Holbrook works with the students on acting in the simulations.

“This course allows nursing students to go through simulations with a living person,” says Professor Holbrook. “The Sim manikins certainly have importance in the teaching of young nurses, of course, but the real-life actors inject an added layer of interaction and improvisation to the simulations.”

Dr. Conover added, “Any Curry student is welcome to enroll in this course – we’ve obviously had interest from Communication and Nursing majors – but we have also welcomed Psychology, Public Health and Wellness, and other majors as well!”

The Healthcare Acting course is designed for both student-nurses and actors to improve their skills in verbal and nonverbal communication, listening, collaboration, understanding of differences in cultures, and recognizing the impact of different economics in our country and how they affect people.

The program is also beneficial beyond training for the profession of healthcare acting. Students in the course are often hired by the School of Nursing to perform in the simulation labs on campus. It also leads to opportunities for jobs in hospital and healthcare industries outside of Curry who use real-life actors for this type of training.

Public Health and Wellness major Jonah Cowan ‘24’ enrolled in the course this fall. He finds the benefits of this new class important to adding to his professional toolbelt.

“As somebody with a relatively recent interest in acting, this class has taught me new skills and allowed me to practice existing skills in new ways,” Cowan said. “It also relates to my major in that it taught me some realistic scenarios that address actual health issues.”