Have you heard of Theater of War? ACEP hosted two online sessions this year to help emergency physicians process the burden of the pandemic in a unique, interactive way, and there may be more sessions coming soon. These Zoom performances and panel discussions were extremely well received by the more than 1,000 EM physician attendees, but they are not recorded due to the sensitivity of the content discussed. (The image with this article is from the ACEP20 session.)
But if you're looking for a way to start a conversation around mental wellness for the healthcare workers at your institution, Theater of War might be a great place to begin.
So, what is Theater of War?
According to its website:
"Theater of War Productions works with leading film, theater, and television actors to present dramatic readings of seminal plays—from classical Greek tragedies to modern and contemporary works—followed by town hall-style discussions designed to confront social issues by drawing out raw and personal reactions to themes highlighted in the plays. The guided discussions underscore how the plays resonate with contemporary audiences and invite audience members to share their perspectives and experiences, and, helping to break down stigmas, foster empathy, compassion, and a deeper understanding of complex issues."
The format for the ACEP sessions included performances of two different greek tragedies, followed by panel discussions with emergency physicians who talked about which parts of the play resonated with them as they have dealt with the tragedy of the pandemic. The host then invites members of the Zoom audience to join the discussion as needed.
In January 2021, ACEP and IDSA teamed up for a new podcast episode focused on how Theater of War sessions can be a helpful coping tool for healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic. It features Dr. Diane Birnbaumer and Dr. Jay Kaplan speaking with Theater of War Artistic Director about its impact.
Theater of War as a Peer Support Tool
Theater of War is already structured as a group activity, but there are ways to individualize it to your department or institution:
- Contact the organizers to see if you can do a custom presentation for your group
- Organize your own "after party" discussion or text chain with your peers after a larger group's presentation (ie: a performance hosted by ACEP)