What is Medical Role Play?

If you’ve taken a good look at my website, especially the home page, you might have noticed that, in addition to translation, I also offer role-playing services for medical students.

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But what does that mean?

In 2012, when I was just out of high school and taking an unexpected gap year (more on that here), I was looking for a job. As someone with relatively few qualifications (I had only taken my ‘A’ levels and not yet completed my degree) and no work experience, I was finding it very difficult to find work or even anything to fill my time. So I took some time to evaluate my skills:

  • Talented linguist (I achieved an A* at French ‘A’ level, an A at German ‘A’ level and an A* at Russian GCSE)
  • Great people and leadership skills (Throughout my school career, I had given many presentations and worked in a team)
  • A penchant for education (I both loved learning and teaching others – at school I had acted as a teaching assistant in KS3 Geography classes)
  • Talented and experienced actor (I had been taking drama classes since I was 7, performed in many youth and amateur productions and taken LAMDA examinations in Acting, Verse and Prose and Devising. I had also taken singing exams)

This last point led me to wonder if there were any small acting jobs available in my area. As I live in Norwich, I wasn’t particularly hopeful, as Norwich is not famed for producing films or television, but I was willing to take on any small acting projects to earn a bit of pocket money.

And along came medical role play….

As I was searching in this sector, I came across a company which offers role-playing services for medical students at the University of East Anglia. I’d never really done much improvisation before, but I decided to apply. And I have loved the job ever since!

The work starts when you receive your booking confirmation which comes with a pack designed to help the tutors who facilitate the session. Inside the pack are a couple of scenarios (normally one or two, but sometimes more depending on the session) which give the details of a patient in a particular situation, linked to whatever the medical students have recently been studying. Some examples are: diabetes, menigitis, broken limbs, pregnancy. As the actor, you then have to thoroughly read and memorise the scenarios.

On the day, you work with a small group of 8-12 students. Once the scenario has been established, you then role-play a consultation with one of the students. While this is meant to simulate the kinds of consultations they will encounter in practice, it provides a safe space where they can ‘pause’ the consulation to discuss with the tutor or other students about how best to deal with it. As an actor, it’s really interesting, because you may be asked to play the scenario in different ways (are you a difficult patient who doesn’t want to talk? are you emotional? is there a particular piece of information that the student needs to get out of you?) While you do get the scenarios with the background information you need to remember, there is obviously a lot of on-the-spot improvising, which can be very rewarding but also very nerve-wracking!

The idea of these sessions is that it will help the medical students to improve their ‘bedside manner’ and give them an opportunity to make mistakes in a neutral environment where no real patients are going to get hurt! At the end of every session, I can honestly that the medical students are incredibly grateful for the work you’ve done with them, which is a lovely feeling!

So I hope this post has given you a little information about what it’s like to work as a medical role-player. If you have any more questions, let me know! Personally, I love it as part of my life as a freelancer – it provides variety and gives me an excuse to get up from behind my computer (which is the natural habit of the translator) and interact with some humans!

Published by verityroat

Verity Roat BA CANTAB MA TRANSLATION CIOL Career Associate is a Norfolk-based Arabic and French > English translator and languages tutor.

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