Becker Learns Bedside Manners at NYU Medical School
Danson, the star of “Becker,” the Monday night television sitcom
about a brash, tough-talking doctor, went to school at Bellevue
Hospital last week. Along with the “Becker” cast, Danson attended
a class in bedside manners pioneered by Dr. Mack Lipkin, director
of the Center for Communication and Healing at NYU School of Medicine.
A ten-week course in doctor-patient communication is a requirement
for all first-year residents. Through role-playing, followed by
feedback from Dr. Lipkin as well as their peers, the new doctors
learn how to speak with patients, families and colleagues. They
act out the parts of doctor and patient in common situations such
as denial of illness, delivery of bad news, alcoholism and not
Whereas the TV Becker might shout at an uncooperative patient,
“Listen to me, stupid,” the real-life residents are given the
skills to try to win a patient’s trust and understand his or her
behavior. They are encouraged to treat “the person,” not “the
illness,” and to listen as well as to talk.
Together with seven residents, Danson and his cast acted out various
roles, simulating typical conversations between physician and
patient. They found the exercise to be challenging, eye opening,
and inspiring. Explaining the show, Danson said, “Becker does
have heart.” The show is funny because the main character cuts
through and says directly what others will not say, an indication
that he really does care. Referring to the medical school course
and the compassion it engenders, an impressed Danson remarked,
“this is a very serious business,” and “we are going to take this
back and still make you laugh.”
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