Research digest: Training and development of healthcare students

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Research digest: Training and development of healthcare students

2 students talking to a patient
© Healthcare students, University of Leeds

By Robyn Dowlen, Centre for Cultural Value


There are growing examples of cultural organisations and practitioners working with healthcare students (including medical, nursing, midwifery, dental students) to help them develop their practice beyond core clinical skills. In this research digest, we assess the evidence for the value of culture in the training and development of healthcare students.

The digest reviews and summarises the academic literature and identifies where there is evidence and where further research is needed.

Watch the video below for a helpful overview, and download the full research digest.

We evaluated the evidence surrounding the value of culture in healthcare training and development programmes.

  • There is evidence that shows the value of cultural programmes in enabling healthcare students to gain a greater understanding of patient experiences and perspectives. This was particularly apparent within studies that looked at theatre-based approaches, with role play and improvisation being commonly associated with these positive outcomes.
  • There was also emerging evidence of improvements in observational skills as a result of engaging with gallery-based programmes, especially those led by staff members trained in specific viewing techniques (e.g. the Art of Observation).
  • Overall, while there is promising evidence that there is a positive role of cultural programmes within the training and development of healthcare students, there is a need to move beyond small-scale and short-term evaluation, to be able to demonstrate tangible benefits to students’ practice beyond the short-term scope of individual programmes.

This rapid review of the literature was conducted between April and June 2020 and was updated ahead of publication in March 2021.

Published: 2021
Resource type: Research