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‘It's not the form; it's the process’: a phenomenological study on the use of creative professional development workshops to improve teamwork and communication skills
  1. Anita Acai1,
  2. Sydney A McQueen1,
  3. Christine Fahim1,
  4. Natalie Wagner1,
  5. Victoria McKinnon1,
  6. Jody Boston2,
  7. Colina Maxwell2,
  8. Ranil R Sonnadara1
  1. 1Office of Education Science, Department of Surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Centre for Print and Media Arts, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ranil R Sonnadara, Office of Education Science, Department of Surgery, McMaster University, A.N. Bourns Science Building, Room 131, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4L8; ranil{at}


Introduction Past research has demonstrated the positive effects of visual and performing arts on health professionals' observational acuity and associated diagnostic skills, well-being and professional identity. However, to date, the use of arts for the development of non-technical skills, such as teamwork and communication, has not been studied thoroughly.

Methods In partnership with a community print and media arts organisation, Centre[3], we used a phenomenological approach to explore front-line mental health and social service workers' experiences with a creative professional development workshop based on the visual and performing arts. Through preworkshop and postworkshop interviews with participants and postworkshop interviews with their managers, we sought to examine how participants' perceptions of the workshop compared with their preworkshop expectations, specific impacts of the workshop with respect to participants' teamwork and communication skills and changes in their perceptions regarding the use of the arts in professional development.

Results Our workshops were successful in enhancing teamwork skills among participants and showed promise in the development of communication skills, though observable changes in workplace communication could not be confirmed. The workshop facilitated teamwork and collegiality between colleagues, creating a more enjoyable and accepting work environment. The workshops also helped participants identify the strengths and weaknesses of their communication skills, made them more comfortable with different communication styles and provided them with strategies to enhance their communication skills.

Conclusions Participation in the arts can be beneficial for the development of interpersonal skills such as teamwork and communication among health professionals.

  • Social care worker
  • Performance
  • Art
  • Education

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