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The impact of a medical improv curriculum on wellbeing and professional development among pre-clinical medical students.

Abstract

Medical students experience rising rates of burnout throughout their training. Efforts have been made to not only mitigate its negative effects, but also prevent its development. Medical improv takes the basic ideas of improvisational theatre and applies them to clinical situations. Given improv's focus on self-awareness and reflection, in addition to its spontaneous nature, we hypothesized it had the potential to serve as a creative outlet, a way to prevent and/or mitigate the negative effects of stress, burnout, and fatigue, and provide a learning environment to develop skills necessary to succeed as a physician. University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine developed a medical improv elective for pre-clinical students and assessed its effects on student development and wellbeing. Students enrolled in the elective between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 at UC San Diego School of Medicine were surveyed pre- and post- course completion using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Students noted significant improvement in domains related to proactivity in their professional career (3.15 to 4.00, p = 0.02), wellbeing (3.0 to 4.4, p < 0.001), engagement with their studies (3.85 to 4.52, p = 0.02), and communication (3.75 to 4.3, p = 0.04) after completion of the medical improv elective. We describe a pilot-study demonstrating the positive effects of improv on medical student wellbeing and professional development, laying the groundwork for both future study of improv on student wellness and its implementation in the pre-clinical curriculum.

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