The Power of Film In Education

Like well-written books, movies can have a similar, long-lasting educational impact on caregivers. Hollywood writers and film producers have known this fact for years. When done well, movies arouse strong emotions and feelings on important issues creating learning opportunities not achieved with traditional teaching methodologies. When these learning opportunities are reinforced with reflective group discussions, the knowledge gained imprints in ways a PowerPoint presentation cannot.

One such film that connects the heart with the head and uses emotion and feelings to educate is “The Faces of Medical Error from Tears to Transparency…The Story of Lewis Blackman”. This award-winning patient safety film is being used around the world as a teaching tool to generate discussions on patient-centered care and team-based risk reduction remedies. Attendees at the recent Eighth Annual Telluride Patient Safety Educational Roundtable and Resident Summer Camp used the film to kick off this year’s meeting. The Roundtable brings together international patient safety leaders, patient advocates, educators, resident physicians and medical students to engage in conversations related to open, honest and professional communication between caregivers and patients/families related to unanticipated patient care outcomes.

Twenty residents attending the Roundtable this year (through scholarship funding support from COPIC and the Committee of Interns and Residents) shared how their current environments were aware of the need for open and honest communication, yet failed to provide the support when an opportunity to have that conversation with a patient actually arose. Paul Levy posted the following resident comments on his blog Not Running a Hospital:
A deep and honest discussion ensued among the residents, reflecting on their current clinical experiences. Here are some of the comments:

“In my place, people are still not telling the truth to patients and families.”

“I am finishing my residency now. For a few patients, I know that I made the error. Not always did the attending physician want to debrief the case with me.”

“M&M’s in my hospital have gotten lame. I know of many cases that did not come up on the M&M docket.”

“Calling the attending is still viewed as a sign of weakness.” They will say, ‘You are not able to independently manage the patient effectively.'”

All in all, a powerful morning, setting the stage and providing motivation for positive change and for attentiveness to the following events in the summer camp.”

We will not achieve the success we are striving for in patient safety unless transparency and education targeting open and honest communication is fully embraced in healthcare. Those interested in learning more about the discussions generated by the film at the Roundtable, please see and


3 Comments on “The Power of Film In Education”

  1. Hi, Dave, Your blog post about what the residents are saying is happening, or not, on the ground, is illuminating.

    Wheels are turning about how to take their observations and turn them into a vehicle for change. This is the kind of reporting that would be helpful as the ACGME moves forward on evaluating the patient safety climate in sponsoring institutions. I will keep this top of mind as that work unfolds.

  2. Rosemary,
    Cant agree with you more. To hear from residents from all across the country that they get little training on informed consent and shared decision-making during medical school or residency was alarming. Most said they learn when they are given the consent and told to get it signed.

  3. David –

    The “Tears to Transparency” film series is so powerful in any context, but especially in medical education. I had the pleasure of seeing various intern orientations this year and there was a striking difference in engagement around patient safety when the videos were screened.

    My first orientation, as I arrived brimming with ideas from Telluride, was at an large urban teaching hospital. Close to two hundred incoming house staff sat restlessly through a litany of presentations on error reporting, HIPPA compliance, and Patient Safety. All I could think to myself, as I watched the house staff look at each other and mouth, “what are they talking about?”, was, there has to be a better way.

    Michael Kantrowitz took the skills and inspiration from his experience at the Resident Patient Safety Summer School, and decided to change that paradigm. He negotiated with his DIO to screen “The Story of Michael Skolnik” and explore the implications of informed consent with new interns at Maimonides Medical Center. Covering similar important ground, the juxtaposition of screening the film and going through a powerpoint were jaw dropping.

    Here is an excerpt of Dr. Kantrowitz’s reflections on the experience both for himself, as a leader, and the impressions of the interns, from theTransparent Health Blog:

    Overall, the new house staff seemed to really enjoy having the opportunity to be engaged in a discussion rather than just hear a lecture about the importance of informed consent. I think this further proved the importance of narratives in medicine. I’m looking forward to holding more conversations like this in the future.

    At orientation for fellows at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Dr.David Birnbach, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Miami, screened “The Faces of Medical Error from Tears to Transparency…The Story of Lewis Blackman”. It was clear from speaking with many of the fellows that Dr. Birnback’s presentation, which wove together situational leadership and patient safety, was one of the most enlightening lectures they had ever been to during their entire residency education!

    A conversation can save a life and as one of the Maimonides administrators reflected, “Education isn’t just learning from the books. It’s looking at the past & making changes towards the future.”

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