Dancing on the nursing degree programs? Innovative educational and clinic courses focusing on body language, self-contact, communication and leadership

In Danish

Helle Winther & Susanne Næsgaard Gröntved
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

Already in the first seconds of a meeting between patient and nurse, both parties communicate through the language of the body. The flow of words may stop, but the body is always in movement – always communicating. The body is constantly moving like a quiet or stormy dance. Always signaling, sensing and communicating through eye contact, touch and rhythmic and emotional tuning. The language of the body is very important for contact, trust and leadership in health professional practices. New research also shows that the language of the body can be trained. Through movement, dance, inquiry and theory-based reflections. Yet, the language of the body, and certainly movement are often overlooked in professional and educational contexts.

This also applies to nursing education, despite the fact that the frequent often bodily close meetings with vulnerablepatients, places high demands on the nurse being able to both contain own feelings and be able to read and understand the patient’s sensuous communication. This insight can be acquired through years of experience. At the same time, this dimension of the nursing practice can be overwhelming for young nursing students.

The question is therefore whether future nurses’ professionalism can be trained through a renewed and collective awareness of embodiment, sensuality and communication in nursing education, and whether this awareness can be acquired through movement and dance.

For a number of years, the UC Diakonissestiftelsen, the Nursing Education Program in Copenhagen and the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen have been studying how a combination of theory, movement studies and increased focus on the language of the body in clinical situations can develop young nursing students’ embodied professionalism.

The results provide concrete indications of how educational institutions and clinical practice can work very concretely with a highly accessible, essential and ever-present part of the nursing profession. The project has received both national and international attention as it has innovative educational potential that can also be inspiring for other educational contexts.

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HELLE WINTHER is an Associate Professor and Ph.D. at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, and head of the research group Embodiment, Learning and Social Change. She is also a trained dance and body psychotherapist and educated in Heartfulness. Helle is a teacher and researcher of dance, movement psychology and body language in professional practice. She has developed methods to use dance, movement, touch, contact and body awareness as a part of professional training of nurses, educators, leaders, midwives and educators, including the project Dancing Nurses. She has held a large number of both national and international lecture workshops for health professionals and has many years of collaboration with both nursing education and hospitals. Her practical research on body language in professional practice is utilized in many professional programs. Helle is author and editor of eight books and anthologies and has published a large number of Danish and international scientific articles. She received the Gerlev Prize in 2019. In addition, she has previously received three teaching awards, including a “Harald”, the award as the teacher of the year at the University of Copenhagen.

SUSANNE NÆSGAARD GRÖNTVED is associate professor and cand.cur. at the Nursing Training Program, UC- Diakonissestiftelsen. Susanne teaches nursing, and for many years has had a special focus on nurses’ professional development historically and today. In this context, she has created new teaching areas, especially focusing on skills development. In 2014, following a successful research project with Helle Winther on nursing students’ development of their professional skills, teaching was implemented based on the concept of professional skills in the nursing students’ curriculum. Susanne has subsequently expanded the collaboration, further investigating the nursing students’ development of bodily awareness, through among other things dance and bodily touch, etc., which has led to the strengthening of their future personal professionalism. Implementation of the teaching area has been presented in lectures, workshops, etc., which has attracted much attention throughout the nursing profession nationally as well as internationally. In addition, she co-authored articles about the research project regaeding the development of the professional skills of nursing students.

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