Professors at Durham University in England are concerned that medical students are emotionally disconnecting themselves from their patients. They are experimenting with an “incision gown” to help remind the students that they too may be cut some day.
The gown has nine zips showing where surgeons make cuts in the body for various operations such as removal of the appendix and open heart surgery. Its silk material is more like human tissue than the plastic of the traditional models.
Medical students will wear the gown in the classroom whilst fellow students learn about surgical incisions using the zips.
The idea, say the developers at Ulster and Durham University, is to bring meaning back into medical teaching and to sweep away the emotional distance which has long been encouraged between medic and patient. Scientists say it will also help in explaining operations to patients.
Leading medical developer Professor John McLachlan, at Durham University said: “Current anatomical teaching aids describe but they don’t evoke. They take no account of emotional involvement or the feel of the body.
“The way medical students distance themselves emotionally from the patient’s body has long been seen as a desirable outcome of current modes of medical training.”
But the ‘desensitisation’ also brought with it the risk of objectifying the body, he said.
“The patient becomes ‘the liver in bed four’ rather than Mrs Smith.
“We think we can use art to bring meaning back into medical teaching and we want to help students understand the significance of the body as well as its structure.”
The Incisions gown was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of a wider project to explore teaching, learning and thinking about the body through a series of art works and artefacts.
Karen Flemming of the Ulster University, the artistic lead on the project, said: “The body and garments are common objects in art and design but collaboration with medical knowledge brings a new dimension.”
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Press release: Art and medicine meet to make the world’s first ‘operation’ gown