Improv and the NHS

I’ve been improvising for 10 years – I don’t know if improvising lead me to my current career choice in healthcare or if it has just helped me along the way.

Who would have thought that in ‘real life’ I can suffer with social anxiety?

I have been working in healthcare now for four years, three of those as a student and the last year as a qualified professional. I don’t think I realised when I started my course that improvising would have been so important to my success. I find that putting people at ease and relating to them is key to maintaining a good bond with my patients.

Antony, Victoria and Josh performing in a show at Gulliver’s, Manchester

Laughter is powerful and humour is a great leveller. At work I put on my confident face and usually I will make a witty comeback to something a patient has said – if they haven’t met me before it may take them by surprise. I’ve had people pause part way through a consultation and say ‘did you know you’re really quite funny?’ (well thank you). Improv helps you to think on your feet and practices resiliance. In my work (unlike on stage) I don’t even have to pretend to be underwater, or French, or have tentacles for hands… Sometimes it might take time to diagnose a problem but it’s not quite like party quirks.

I’ve also had patients leave reviews about my work and they’ve commented on how humour has helped to put them at ease when they were quite concerned about coming into an appointment. Particularly if it was the first time they’ve seen someone in my line of work. I cannot begin to tell you how good that feels, particularly when someone leaves my clinic feeling better than when they walked in, both physically and mentally.

Sometimes I can be the only person that somebody has seen for a week or more. Yes, my work is in healthcare, not social work, but I think the social aspect of my job is equally as important, if not more so than the healthcare! It consists of ‘10% health care skills and 90% people skills’ as a mentor once told me.

Lauren, Antony, Victoria, Alex and Ben rehearsing monologue thief with Rory directing.

More often than not I see patients in a clinic setting and at other times I see them in their own homes because they are unable to leave them. Being in the privileged position to learn about their fascinating histories and bringing a little bit of humour and care into somebody’s life is incredibly rewarding. If not for improv I doubt that I would have had the confidence to have these conversations and to care in this way.

Improv starts as a hobby and an escape but permeates into every fibre of your being.

You can’t escape it even if you want to, and I’m okay with that.

The bespectacled members of the group shooting for a specsavers advert

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