PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Maybe it’s happened to you, a less than positive experience with a doctor.

Maybe they were a little insensitive or maybe they were rushing you along.

Well, a local actress is doing something that could improve the way your doctor treats you. You might call it “Bedside Manner School.”

Doctors end up dealing with some heavy situations. Not only do they have to know medicine, but they have to know how to talk with people, ask the right questions, and also listen.

KDKA-TV’s David Highfield sat in as a group of residents at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville took turns trying to help a “patient” with a possible drinking problem.

The “patient” is actually an actress with Marsh Professional Simulators, which is a business run by actress/director Demetria Marsh.

“How you address the question or talk to the patients affects the answer or the push back you get,” said Marsh.

She gave us some examples of what she means. For instance, in an end-of-life scenario, if a doctor asks: “Do you want me to remove the breathing tube from your mother?”

“I think, ‘I’m going to kill my mother. No, I don’t want to kill my mother,’” said Marsh.

She says another way to ask would be if a doctor said:

“You know if your mom were sitting here next to us, knowing what we know about her health, what would she want for herself?”

“And most of us would say my mother would be really mad, and she would say what are you doing to me? Let me go! I’m so ready,” said Marsh.

One of the scenarios at Forbes brought some residents to tears, as a mother and daughter had a touching conversation about end-of-life issues.

“It can be very emotional,” said Bob Sukolsky, Director of Behavorial Science at Forbes Hospital.

But, he says these types of programs have a real benefit for residents when they encounter difficult real-life situations.

“Residency programs such as this are spending more time now valuing the patient relationship,” said Sukolsky.
During the training, doctors can ask for a timeout and get advice on what to do next.

They sit in a semi-circle, all watching the actors’ portrayals.

They’re also trained to observe a patient’s body language. Marsh says it can indicate whether a patient feels comfortable enough to open up or is unwilling to share what could be important information.

“I think it helps a lot because patients seem to be more willing to provide information. They seem to be more relaxed,” said Dr. Richard Rivett, a resident at Forbes Hospital.

Marsh has about 40 actors in all. They do simulations for both Allegheny Health Network and UPMC hospitals. They even do some of out-of-town work.

Recently, they were at Children’s Hospital helping doctors talk to parents about difficult issues about their children.

Marsh’s group also provides training for other types of businesses.

For more information, visit Marsh’s website here: http://www.marshsimulators.com/Contact.html

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David Highfield