Wit: using drama to teach first-year medical students about empathy and compassion

Teach Learn Med. Fall 2003;15(4):247-51. doi: 10.1207/S15328015TLM1504_06.


Background: Training in empathy and compassion can foster altruism in medical students.

Description: To use the drama Wit in an experiential learning module for first-year medical students. Students and faculty received tickets to a Wit performance. Students heard a pre-play lecture on end-of-life care and attended a post-play discussion with the cast. Each attendee completed an evaluation survey for the Wit Educational Initiative, and site-specific responses were computed. Students reflected on their experience in an e-mail dialogue with clinical faculty. Students could also earn extra credit by completing a written assignment.

Evaluation: Attendance was excellent--99% of the class and 59% of their preceptors. Most rated the performance as "excellent" or "very good" and reported they were moved emotionally. Reflecting on the performance, students admired the "science" of medicine but found the "art" of medicine lacking.

Conclusion: When used effectively, theater can be used to promote attitude change.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Drama*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Students, Medical / psychology*