Add lib – practicing for medical practice - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

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When hit with a medical crisis we’re always grateful for the extensive training our doctors and nurses and paramedics have had and their knowledge of anatomy, drugs and procedures that could save our lives. What is harder to define is the “bedside manner” that some medical practitioners demonstrate; the ability to make us feel that we’re heard, safe and informed and that someone’s making sense out of the crisis confusion. That’s a separate skill – and training in that skill is a specialty of Add Lib.

Add Lib was established by actor/producer/director/conference presenter Libby Harrison, in response to a perceived need for SPs – Simulated Patients – in training courses for medics and other core professions. Libby ran the Simulated Patient program for more than a decade at Griffith University, utilising the skills of 200 actors, trained to present as “patients” to a practitioner. She has also worked with health professional training bodies in Perth and Newcastle, covering training in areas that include medicine, paramedicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy, nutrition and dietetics, psychology, social work, speech therapy, nursing and occupational therapy.

Libby also works with management consultants, supplying role players to assist with training their clients in communication, empathy, and professionalism.

In Add Lib’s medical training, Libby points out that even the best body replicas can’t replace a live “patient”.

“There’s a limit to what can be learned from a medical manikin, even state-of-the-art replicas that can sweat, change colour, display pupil dilation and give verbal responses,” Libby says. “A student can practice drawing blood from an artificial arm but they’ll be totally task-focused, not needing to check a patient’s responses or even orient where they’re standing with consideration for the patient’s comfort.

“They don’t have to ask a mannikin for consent, build rapport or show empathy – the intensely human aspects of treatment require a living, breathing person.”

While most of the Add Lib cohort are experienced actors, Libby points out that role playing is a completely different form of acting to entertaining or selling a product.

“Essentially, it’s a process of guided improvisation,” she says. ‘Simulated patients have to be familiar with the scenario that they’ve been given and – even more than they would for a stage drama – have to think about how their character would react in a given situation, what the character’s back-story is, the sort of questions the medic. would be likely to ask them.”

All of this takes its toll on actors, even the experienced ones, and while medical students are usually offered counselling and debriefing actors are frequently left with the emotional burden of simulating repeated crises. While working at Griffith University Libby introduced a post-work debrief routine that she still uses with her team.

“Self-care and medical health are as important for actors as having a safe physical environment,” Libby says. “We need to ensure that our actors aren’t left suffering a trauma by proxy after a heavy work session.”

There can be unexpected benefits. One of Add Lib’s actors was playing a cardio-vascular “patient” when the medical students detected a significantly blocked artery that could have caused a stroke.

Libby can customise a scenario to suit a client’s needs and write a script or develop one with the client. Add Lib’s actors cover a wide range of types: children, seniors, fluent foreign language speakers, people from diverse ethnicities and Indigenous backgrounds and slender to plus sizes. They are specially trained in presenting a wide range of symptoms appropriate to the specific ailment. If an organisation has its own team of SPs arrangements can be made for Add Lib to train them.

To find out more about Add Lib and the services it offers call Libby Harrison on 0410 570 200.

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