Portsmouth PILL Peeps Help Improve Healthcare from Coast to Coast!

This Spring I’ve traveled to San Francisco and Chicago to present a new Medical Improv workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust“!  It is a 9 hr training that will bring me to PA in may.  It is extremely exciting b/c the audience is made up of Health Risk Management professionals who work for non-profit aging service providers from all over the country.  (There were representatives from Riverwoods in Exeter!) These are the people who want to make healthcare safer for all the residents and families they serve.

Like many of us in healthcare, we’ve known for years that emotional intelligence and communication issues are associated with problems with errors, poor customer service, and workforce injuries.   A “soft” skill set that includes self-awareness, self-esteem, assertiveness, listening and empathy.  And they are hard to build!

As a nurse consultant, I am one of the pioneers of a teaching strategy called, Medical Improv and have a local business called PILL which stands for Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab! Over the last 18 months over 60 people have taken classes taught by me and colleague Liz Korabek-Emerson.  And several students have participated in the PILL filming project which has provided  helpful videos like Same-Time-Story and Gibberish Talk Show Host.

Look at how these Health Risk Managers in San Francisco are leaning in as they watch Mary-Ellen McElroy, Dwyer Vessey, and Anita Remig play the Gibberish activity.  These videos are priceless teaching tools because they:

  • Fully engage participants in the learning.
  • Demonstrate how-to do activities.
  • Prompt discussion about the relevance to essential skill-building.
  • Offer reassurance that you don’t have to have acting experience to play.

So far over 130 professionals have participated in this Spring Training and many will take the activities back to the nurses, administrators, nurse assistants, activity directors, human resource managers and others they work with in an effort to build trusting relationships and effective communication skills.  The potential rippling effect of this work is immeasurable!

And there I am, grateful and proud! It is like bringing my students with me and they become teachers!  In the very honorable work of making healthcare safer and more compassionate! Thank you PILL Peeps! 🙂

Is it something personal?  Help keep programming going or at least check out fun PPMTV Kickstarter video!

Well, personally, I love PPMTV! They are helping me with filming project designed to make healthcare safer and more compassionate for patients, residents, and families and healthier to work in for nurses, doctors, etc

Last week, I was in San Francisco teaching Medical Improv to about 60 health risk managers.

Here I am with the group watching a video with seacoast PILL peeps Jody Fuller and Glenna Kimball doing an improv activity called Same Time Story.  It is a fun and effective way to teach empathic listening skills!  We need THAT in healthcare, don’t you think? Look closely and see how engaged the participants are!

Now PPMTV needs $$ for new programming stuff.  I threw in a few bucks and maybe you will too.  If you can.  And if not, please share this post and check out their fun video, “It’s Always Something!” What a crew!

Kickstarter Project to Help Keep PPMTV on the Air.  Please consider a donation to help replace their computer program and get some new software that makes all the programming possible.

Oh and next PILL classes start 4/28!

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7 Reasons Why I’m Excited about this Medical Improv Gig & Please Wish Me Luck!

Tomorrow morning I’l be on a flight from Boston to San Francisco where I’ll be presenting a day and a half workshop called, “Risk Management by Design:  Building a Practice of Trust”.   The workshop is designed to introduce Medical Improv as a teaching strategy. There will be 60 or so participants who are leaders in non-profit aging organizations such as; long term care and assisted living facilities, Hospice and Home Health.  They are nurses, attorneys, administrators, human resource representatives, insurance specialists, and maybe a few physicians and they are working very hard to keep residents safe.  Later in April I will present this same workshop in Chicago, and in May, Philadelphia.

MEDICAL IMPROV can help us in so many vital ways! The opportunity to bring this work forward in a big way is so very exciting.  Here’s why:

  1. Participants will experience 15 or more experiential activities designed to build skills associated with emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork and leadership.   Many people, when they have a chance to try this kind of improv discover that it is safe, fun, and effective.
  2. Many of them will be empowered to integrate activities into in-services, orientation processes, administrative and clinical meetings at their organizations.  This means that staff, management, and senior leaders will have fun opportunities to practice listening and speaking up etc. in an affordable way and on a regular basis. The rippling effect could be profound.
  3. Setting Realistic Expectations is a primary focus for my client and this alone suggests a desire to be honest, transparent, and respectful of all stake-holders. Improv, when facilitated to create a safe environment and framed with these learning objectives, is a powerful tool for developing self-awareness, building trust, and practicing the interpersonal skills necessary for these ideals.
  4. Being a pioneer in this emerging field is sometimes challenging because there are few signposts. This will put me on the map!
  5. All participants will get a copy of my book, “Medical Improv:  A New Way to Teach Communication”.  This means that when all is said and done over 200 professionals involved in patient safety will have copies.  I believe it is my best work and in addition to reenforcing activities, I make a strong case for why we need experiential learning and there is a great list of other resources.
  6. I will be able to invest some of my fee in the PILL(Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) filming project with PPMTV and PILL students which is intended to provide an online resource for lesson plans and video bites of improv activities to help others teach activities.
  7. Last but not least, I get to have coffee with Dr. Candy Campbell after the workshop.  She is a nurse instructor at the University of San Francisco and improv teacher.  In fact she did her doctoral thesis on improv and communication skills for nurses.  She too is a pioneer and wrote the forward to my book.  We are going to have one dynamic cup of coffee!

I am grateful to all the students in PILL who teach me so much.

I know you are rooting for me and the work!

Oh and next PILL classes start 4/28!

Alan Alda Has a Passion for Using Improv to Help Scientists Communicate better!

There's something about improv that opens you up to another person.-Alan Alda Click To Tweet

Building trust, developing empathy, and practicing communication skills are going on all the time in the divine play of applied improvisation activities!  Improv techniques have the potential to help us in all interactions!  One pioneer in applying improvisation is well-known and loved actor, Alan Alda! This is a great interview with him and Dan Rather that includes a couple of fun clips of students improvising, even some gibberish! And pretty nice to hear them talk so lovingly and respectfully of their wives.  I’d say, grab a cup of tea and enjoy this interview!

Stay tuned to PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab for classes open to everyone!

 

What Makes Applied Improv an Effective Strategy for Preventing Violence?

Ask any teacher of applied improv this question and you’ll likely get a variety of similar answers with a diversity of examples and approaches.  Nevertheless, it is an important question to ask right now.

After all, we seem to be surrounded by devasting violent acts. Some tragedies are manmade like this week’s horrific shooting in Las Vegas.  Some are the results of mother nature, like hurricanes Irma and Maria.  And some are a combination; as with the current situation in Puerto Rico where hurricanes caused massive destruction and we have been slow to help.

I don’t think you get to be human and not experience some kind of suffering.  Yet, minimizing it for ourselves and others seems like a compassionate and purposeful mission.  I believe fiercely in this and that there is hope. Some of which lies with students and teachers of applied improv.

Why Applied Improv?

There are several compelling reasons. First, applied improv is a way to playfully practice and grow fundamental communication skills like listening and speaking up.  All activities help with at least one of these skills while the vast majority help with both. As we practice developing these skills we build the foundation that helps us to manage conflict, embrace diversity, and give and receive constructive feedback with respect and kindness.  These are the building blocks to healthy relationships even among people with different cultures, skin colors, sexuality, age, genders….etc.

Second, participants get to be imperfect and supported at the same time.  We celebrate mistakes in improv which allows us all to be human and stay connected.  While the games of improv can lead to silly, fictional stories like eggplant and applesauce recipes, nano-weights for muscle-building, or knitting book-covers by the millions, there is an underlying and profound sense of trust-building going on. This lets us take risks, try out new behaviors,  and share ideas.  In essence, the process helps us discover who we are and who we want to be.  Our best selves can emerge with authenticity and in friendship.

Third, we get to experience ‘divine play’.  Many will nod in understanding this concept in thinking of a baby playing with his or her food and making funny sounds, dogs chasing each other on a beach, or horses frolicking in a field. This spirit of playfulness is incredibly joyful and improv lets us experience it first hand.

Fourth, as we play together we share experiences that are often, but not always funny.  We also share moments of other emotions such as sadness or anger.  These shared experiences are bonding.  Most people want to care about others and be cared about.  As our world is erupting in chaos, the importance of creating spaces and opportunities for this cannot be understated.

Fifth, a point made by improv student and retired 2nd-grade teacher, Glenna Kimball, “Having time to play together gives us the strength to cope with everything else that is going on”.  This is important b/c getting stuck in despair would be easy to do these days, but not helpful.  Making joy a priority will help us stay the course.

Where can you find an applied improv class? 

I have two businesses that involve applied improv.  One is PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, where you’ll find basic classes and along with new projects like combining mindfulness and improv (with Korabek Training) and the upcoming version for young adults (with Project SparX out of Fireside Theatre in Newburyport, MA).  I also teach Medical Improv to healthcare professionals wherever I am invited to.  I have been as far away as Saudi Arabia!  The activities are the generally the same, but the framing involves improving critical outcomes such as patient safety, patient experience, and workforce health.

If you are an applied improv teacher, please feel free to post your related work with any links to it,  additional ideas and approaches you are using in the comment section of this blog.

Summary

Our abilities to cope with, respond to, engage in conflict about, and prevent violence all have roots in our abilities to form healthy and respectful relationships. Our social fabric may be wearing thin or unraveling, but applied improv classes can help.  And there are new teachers and approaches rising up all over the world!  Learn more at the Applied Improvisation Network.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Seacoast Actor & NH’s Commitment to Holistic Health Via Art, Medicine, & Improv

Jennifer Sue Mallard is well-known for many wonderful acting roles on the NH seacoast.  Did you see her as the Lady of the Lake in this Summer’s hit show, Spamalot at Seacoast Rep?  OMG the whole show was amazing and so was she!

A newer and also exciting role for Jen is as one of the dedicated instructors at the River Guild Holistic Health Collective in Concord, NH.  Here she teaches many forms of art all of which is approached in a therapeutic way. She incorporates meditation in every class and teaches improv for adults and youth.

Jen also teaches wire wrapping healing stones, painting from your soul and collaborative choreo!

I’m loving having found an outlet to combine my passions of helping people organically and in a healthy way by using what I know And love. Art is such a beautiful form of medicine and I’m lucky to have become aware of how I can use my skills in a deeper way, to bring us all together and heal the soul!  –Jennifer Sue Mallard

The River Guild is a holistic health collective with community space serving Concord and Central New Hampshire. Their classes include yoga, healthy eating seminars, meditation, reading groups, author events, mindful parenting, art and children’s classes. Doesn’t this look like an exciting place? Whether for primary treatment or to support traditional medicine, with all the chaos in health care these days, it is reassuring to hear about a calming and loving place for healing.  And what a great place for instructors too!

Their philosophy is grounded in the firm belief that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach!

Meanwhile, here on the seacoast Fall classes for PILL-Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab are taking shape. Applied improv, (different from improv comedy) is a fun way to meet people and grow!