Using Forum Theater as a Teaching Tool to Combat Patient Bias Directed Toward Health Care Professionals

Date of Review: February, 2021

This resource, from MedEdPORTAL, introduces an educational activity in which forum theater (where participants role-play an instance of oppression with a goal of altering the ultimate outcome) is employed so attendees can develop/rehearse responses to workplace bias while preserving the provider-patient relationship. The activity includes health professional experiencing oppression, a patient antagonist who is perpetuating oppression, and audience members who seek to become “spect-actors” who observe and insert themselves into either of the other 2 roles to to change the dynamic and alter the scene’s outcome. The resource includes a facilitator guide, accompanying slide deck, and video demonstrating an example of patient-initiated bias. I think this resource could be a valuable learning opportunity for outpatient (and maybe hospital inpatient) health professionals and trainees. However, the authors note that when the activity was delivered to internal medicine (IM) and emergency medicine (EM) residents, EM residents reported much lower rates of learning how to respond to patient-initiated bias, which the authors attribute to the quick pace and frontline culture of the EM setting. Although the activity is flexible enough so that there is not a required number of included sessions, a limitation is the lack of uniformity of included materials; some refer to 50-minute sessions, while others prepare readers for a 90-minute session; as such, facilitators would likely need to take an ad hoc approach to adapting the resource to their institution/time constraints. Despite these limitations, the resource is both feasible and presents a potentially valuable opportunity for many trainees and health professionals to collaboratively design solutions to all-too-common problems in frontline medicine. –Dave Liss, PhD, NCEAS

Corresponding Author’s Email:


University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Where was the Curriculum Implemented:

Rochester, NY.

Source of the Curriculum/Resource:


Outcomes that Have Been Reported for the Curriculum:

Learner Satisfaction or reaction

Self-reported learner knowledge

Self-reported learner behavior in simulated setting

Outcome and Study Design:

Post only

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