Improv to Improv(e) Healthcare!

Applied “Medical” Improv is focused on honesty and spontaneity (“serious play”), rather than comedy.  It’s an art form and it develops communication.  Most importantly, it’s FUN!  It can be designed to increase self-awareness, problem solving, empathy, collaboration and professionalism.  Building teamwork empowers productive, open, and trusting partnerships to expand and flourish.

It’s no longer a secret that the U.S. medical system needs help in several critical areas:  questionable healthcare quality, increasing medical errors, burned employees, and poor patient experiences.  Top administrators, support staff, and direct caregivers all need to keep their “soft skills” sharpened.  A positive attitude, empathy, and self-awareness, along with excellent communication, team building, and problem solving are all necessary for facing today’s workplace (healthcare) challenges.

Additionally, preventable adverse events (PAE’s) cause 400,000 people to die each year, making it the #3 cause of death in the U.S. (2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics).  The Joint Commission has identified Leadership, Communication, and Human Factors as the top 3 causes of PAE’s, and there’s growing interest in using applied Improv principles to offer new and innovative solutions to these ongoing, critical problems.

What are the principles of Applied “Medical” Improv?

  • “Yes and…” (to affirm and add, rather than negate)
  • A need to surrender individual “plans” and co-create together
  • To see “failure” as opportunity (to learn, be human, forgive, help)
  • To be “present” for others with mindful listening
  • Affirm and grow your team’s ideas
  • Realize that you have everything that’s needed to support and collaborate together

A free initial consultation is available to discuss your organization’s interests, goals and budget.  A planning meeting via conference call or on-site will be arranged, and a program proposal delivered.

The workshop process usually includes:

  • Administration, support staff, and direct caregivers are encouraged to attend the on-site workshops.
  • Each workshop “part” is offered over 2-3 hours to each group, with varied times and dates to reach all members of the healthcare organization.
  • An appropriate number of Improv facilitators are present, depending on participant numbers.
  • Follow-up sessions with initial workshop attendees can be arranged to introduce additional exercises and support already implemented principles.
  • Optional monthly meetings for ongoing staff education, shared experiences, support of the new Improv “culture”, and (eventual) staff-led “train the improviser” programs.

In summary, Improv to Improv(e) Healthcare! addresses:

  • Listening… words aren’t even necessary; body posture, emotions and disposition are powerful communicators
  • Cooperation… it’s a “team sport” that celebrates dialog and shared respect
  • Observation… the ability to process large amounts of crucial information and translate it into action
  • Adaptability… letting go of preconceived notions and being open to new ideas

“Medical Improv” has fairly new roots in the U.S., and there are approximately 50 professionals that have attended “train the trainer” workshops. As one of those trainers, my team and I have presented workshops for a variety of healthcare organizations looking for new, innovative ways to address patient safety, quality of care, employee retention, and medical errors.  Some of the organizations who have benefited from our workshops include hospitals, home health agencies, public health programs, professional associations, academic programs, private physician groups, and others.  Contact me today to find out how your organization can benefit from Improv to Improv(e) Healthcare! workshops!

Stephanie Frederick, M.Ed., RN


Stephanie Frederick, M.Ed., RN is passionate about providing positive patient and staff experiences throughout the organization by improving communication.  She attended the first Medical Improv “Train the Trainer” intensive, taught by Katie Watson, JD in June, 2013 at the Chicago’s Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.