‘Bedside Manner’ is a short documentary directed by Corinne May Botz which focuses on Simulated Patients (SPs) and their interactions with clinicians. The film explores empathy and medical relationships through the practice of using actors to assist in the communication skills training of student doctors.
Artist and Filmmaker, Corinne May Botz, gained special access to clinical skills centres throughout New York City in order to paint a true picture of the reality of simulation in medical training.
At the centre of the film is neurologist, Dr. Alice Flaherty, who plays herself as a doctor, SP and real patient. Dr Flaherty is currently writing a book about the neuroanatomy of empathy and notes that “we should start to think of empathy as an essential skill, part of our job as doctors. A lot of us are trained to be very technical—we know how to clip an aneurysm—and think that empathy is what you do when your surgery doesn’t work. We doctors should feel pleased if we can calm an angry patient down, instead of just seeing empathy as a nuisance that is interfering with our job.”
The film won Best Short at DOC NYC and was Oscar-qualifying. It’s encouraging to know that the message on the importance of good clinical communication skills is spreading wider than just the medical world, and this documentary offers viewers a rare glimpse into the practice of training doctors.
The Director explains her motivation for making the film:
“When I was younger, I was sick a lot and I had a general distrust of doctors. When you go into the doctor’s office—with the examination table, the white coat and the patient gowns—it can be depersonalising. You take on a role. The doctor takes on a role. Consequently, I was fascinated when I learned about the slightly surreal profession of actors who are trained to portray patients in order to help medical students improve their diagnostic skills and bedside manner. I saw the performances as a way to ask questions about interactions between doctors and patients.”
By Jessica Wright, Managing Director at Peel Roleplay