Making Magic in Medical Settings: How Magic May Improve the Patient-Student Connection

Thumyat Noe ’23

Figure 1: Service learning programs help develop compassion, communication, and empathy in participants.

Many medical students often find themselves feeling emotionally detached from the illness experiences of patients. To combat this sentiment, medical education curricula recommend that students gain clinical immersion experience early to enhance students’ awareness of the patient experience. Past clinical findings suggest that performing magic acts as part of clinical immersion experience can further improve relations between medical staff and child patients. Magic acts consist of performances that elicit enjoyment through demonstration of events appearing to be impossible. Viewing such performances may improve clinical immersion experiences as well as the relationship between health care professionals and patients. Based on these findings, researchers from Renaissance School of Medicine created MagicAids, a voluntary service learning program which facilitates engagement with pediatric patients through magic performance. Researchers also assessed MagicAids’ effectiveness in enabling proper communication between patients and caregivers. Researchers hypothesized that the MagicAid program will be effective in helping medical students develop empathy, compassion, and communication skills.

During the first week of classes, researchers introduced the MagicAid program to the medical students. Students interested in the program could then attend training classes where they learned how to perform basic magic tricks. Afterwards, students conducted magic rounds on specified hospital units for patients and their families. At the end of the academic year, students reflected on their experiences and evaluated the effectiveness of the MagicAid program in a survey. Some of the questions asked students how useful they found the program to be in improving communication with the patient, reducing burnout, and helping them acclimate to the clinical immersion experience.

Most students expressed enjoyment of the MagicAid program, emphasizing that it helped develop their communication skills, empathic qualities, leadership skills, and hospital familiarity, and improved overall psychological health. For instance, out of 47 participants, 34 of them rated their experience with the MagicAids program as “Extremely satisfied.” Students considered their experiences in the program as valuable and helpful towards their future careers as physicians. Lastly, students noted that they learned how to provide proper care to pediatric patients, read body language, and effectively communicate with patients. The results of the study suggest that joyful volunteer experiences are important in improving patient care within clinical settings. Introducing similar programs to medical schools would help students develop empathy and appropriately respond to the emotional states of patients. 

Works Cited:

[1] H.D. Pravder, et al., An innovative program using magic to provide early clinical experiences for preclinical medical students: goals, experiences, and results of the MagicAid program.  Medical Science Educator 32, 111-120 (2022). doi:10.1007/s40670-021-01456-y

[2] Image retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Student_Life_Service_Learning_(11174838943).jpg

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