A growing body of research attests to the effectiveness of films as an educational strategy to promote empathy (MacDonnell & MacDonald, 2011). Films can help learners gain an appreciation of the lived experience of illness and the dichotomy between healthcare professionals who are empathic versus those that are indifferent, callous and even cruel (Darbyshire, 2006). The human stories portrayed in films engage learners and convey important concepts (Blasco & Moreto, 2012).
Films, whether fictional or documentary-style, are a form of storytelling. They promote vicarious learning experiences in ways that inspire, educate, transform and energise (Bordwell and Thompson, 2003). Films are useful in teaching because this medium is familiar, and students identify easily with film characters and situations. The educational benefit can be expanded by the phenomenon of students’ ‘carrying forward’ into their daily lives the insights and emotions initially generated in response to the film clips (Blasco & Moreto, 2012).
The main goal of the use of film is to foster reflection and to provide a forum for discussion about the interaction of health and illness within the breadth of human experience. Reflection is the necessary bridge to move from emotions to behaviour change, and from technical responses to deep introspection and empathic responses. The power of film to achieve transformation also requires guidance from skilled educators so that new insights are gained, and perspectives enabled (McAllister et al., 2015). When educators direct students’ attention to issues of importance, the knowledge and attitudes developed through discerning engagement are not merely theoretical but also grounded in human experience.
Blasco, P. & Moreto, G. (2012). Teaching Empathy through Movies: Reaching Learners’ Affective Domain in Medical Education. Journal of Education and Learning. 1(1), 22-34.
Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2003). Film Art: An Introduction. (7th ed.) McGraw Hill, New York.
Darbyshire, P. (2006). Understanding caring through arts and humanities: a medical/nursing humanities approach to promoting alternative experiences of thinking and learning. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 19, 856-863.
McAllister, M., Levett-Jones, T. Lasater, K., & Petrini, M. (2016). The viewing room: A lens for exploring ethical comportment. Nurse Education in Practice. (16), 119-124.
MacDonnell, J. & MacDonald, G. (2011). Arts-based critical inquiry in nursing and interdisciplinary professional education: guided imagery, images, narratives, and poetry. Journal of Transformative Education. 9(4), 203-221.