Medical Improv Activity Provides Profound Learning Between Surgeon & Nurse!

By Beth Boynton, RN, MS

I love using an experiential activities from the emerging practice of Medical Improv because people learn such valuable skills and develop positive relationships in a fun way. By valuable skills I’m talking about developing our emotional intelligence and our abilities to communicate, collaborate, lead (and follow) effectively and respectfully!

Once you learn the core principles there are literally hundreds of activities that build communication and interpersonal skills. You might not think that a fun activity adapted from improvisational theatre could help a nurse and surgeon build all of these skills, but I’ve seen it happen!

One activity called ‘Dr. Know-it-All” requires three people to answer open-ended questions by contributing one word at at time. They don’t have to be factual, but they do have to make sense and work together quickly and collaboratively. In one pilot workshop, there was a surgeon sitting in the middle of two nurses while they answered a question ‘Why is the sky blue?’. One of the nurses hesitated to add to the answer and when she did, the surgeon took a breath as he adapted from what he thought the answer was going to be to a different one.

In this moment, the nurse learns to speak up, the doctor learns to listen, they build their relationship, collaborate, and have fun. The relationship part of the complex adaptive system is healing!

Beth Boynton, RN, MS, author of Successful Nurse Communication: Safe Care, Healthy Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers is a speaker and medical improv trainer. She publishes the award-winning blog, “Confident Voices in Healthcare” and more information about her work can be found at She can be contacted at [email protected]

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