L. Gao, J. Peranson, J. Nyhof-Young, E. Kapoor & J. Rezmovitz
Background: The use of improvizational theater (“improv”) in health professional education (“medical improv”) is an emerging field. However, optimal curricular design features and learning outcomes have not yet been systematically described.
Objective: To synthesize evidence on learning outcomes and curricular design elements of improvizational theater training in health professions education.
Methods: A literature search with keywords “Improv” and “Improvisational Theatre” was undertaken in January 2016 in Ovid MEDLINE, CINHAL, EMBASE, SCOPUS, Web of Science, and ERIC, with an accompanying gray literature search. Four authors coded and achieved consensus on themes relating to curricular design elements and learning outcomes, which were mapped onto the CanMEDS framework.
Results: Seven articles met inclusion criteria. Key curricular design features included (i) facilitators with dual clinical and theater expertise; (ii) creating a low-stakes environment; and (iii) engaging in debrief to highlight clinical relevance. Improv curricula were found to impact most CanMEDS roles, including: Medical Expert (comfort with uncertainty); Leader (team management); Scholar (feedback, self-reflection); Communicator (empathy, active listening, non-verbal communication); Collaborator (culture of trust); and Professional (resiliency and confidence). Mechanisms by which improv may promote acquisition of these professional competencies, and the utility of improv in areas such as interprofessional team development, leadership, and wellness and resiliency are discussed.