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     …A war veteran, suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, is calmed by a pair of nurses and is guided to the support services that will help him.

     …A nurse comforts and cares for a young mother stricken with cancer, who is coming to terms with the seriousness of her condition.

These are scenes from HealthCAST, a groundbreaking partnership at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa between the Department of Nursing and the Department of Theatre and Dance. Theatre students play the role of the patients in extremely realistic simulations giving nursing students the opportunity to practice providing care in emotionally charged situations.

“There are certain simulations where you really need that human factor, the psych social, the death and dying or anxiety or stress,” explained Lorrie Wong, the director of the UH Mānoa Translational Health Science Simulation Center in the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene.

“For theatre, it was a great opportunity to give some of our students the chance to really work in depth on characters,” said Paul Mitri, the theatre and dance department chair.

Nursing students work with a theatre student portraying someone suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

It all takes place in the nursing department’s state-of-the-art Translational Health Science Simulation Center. Nursing faculty and staff say the theatre students add a critical dimension of realism.

“When we had our actress portraying this patient that was really going through this life crisis,” said Wong. “We had people actually crying.”

“We never know what situation we are walking into,” said nursing student Michelle Radovan. “What kind of people we are dealing with, how they are going to respond to our care.”

“You learn how to respond to their emotions and how you respond to their emotions, so that way, when you are in that situation, you deal with it better,” said fellow nursing student Kameron Noyama. “Instead of being like, oh no, what am I going to do now.”

To make the simulations as realistic as possible, each theatre student works with an expert from the nursing department to master every detail of the illness they are portraying.

“To fully understand emotionally and physically what these patients are going through, I felt was essential to the role I was playing” said theatre student Kyle Scholl.

The theatre students say their HealthCAST roles come with more responsibility than a typical theatre production because they are working with future nurses.

“Not only do I have to do justice to the character and my acting,” said theatre student Timothy Callais. “But I have to help their education and I need to make sure that I am doing the best I can so that they get the best education they can.”

Because the simulations are so realistic, the nursing students say they learn things that could never be taught in a textbook or lecture. The exercises are video taped so the students can review them with their instructors and fellow students and receive critical feedback allowing them to build competence and confidence along with empathy and compassion.

“You have been through the scenarios, you’ve seen how other people respond and from there you kind of figure out how to approach the situation,” said Noyama. “And that makes the biggest difference in the world, I think.”

The program is also very important to the theatre and dance department.

“This collaboration could really be the start of a new area of theatre and the arts and its involvement in the world,” said Callais.

HealthCAST is an example of what’s possible when two completely different university departments join forces to achieve a common goal, giving students the most complete and best education possible.

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