Does Art Imitate Life? Using Film As An Educational Tool In Nursing

I started to crack up when Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) confronted Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia) and uttered the above quote in the movie ‘GhostBusters 2’ which premiered this weekend. I was the only one laughing in the theater.

Jaws is one of my favorite movies. That’s not why I was laughing. I was laughing because I used that exact scene from JAWS for a teaching scenario.

Back in 2007, I landed my first teaching job. I had never taught anything before professionally. One of my Nursing goals was to teach. My first teaching job was at a private Nursing University. My teaching assignment: Leadership and Management.

“Nurses are all great leaders. We are taught to delegate, responsibilities and manage a patient’s care while they are in the hospital. Plus, I managed a clinic which saw 60-200 patients per day!” That’s what got me my teaching position for Leadership and Management.

My mentor shared with me a teaching strategy: Teaching through movie magic! She used Apollo 13 as an example. The scene: chaos breaks out in the NASA command center when Apollo 13 is lost in space. “Houston we have a problem!”

The management style used in the iconic scene was to be outlined. Directive/ Coercive style was used to take control when everyone starts to go crazy!

For the final exam in leadership and management, I decided to use JAWS. The specific scene: when a town meeting is called by the Mayor with the citizens of Amity Island.

The Police Chief makes his point about JAWS and how life threatening the situation is. He also makes a case to close down Amity Island for the fourth of July Holiday. The towns people become upset since the bulk of their income and relies on tourism and the holiday. The Mayor takes a democratic approach and  like the infamous Pontius Pilot, let’s the citizens decide. They decide to keep Amity Island open and ignore the potential threat of danger.

The Mayor of “JAWS”  then goes on camera and states that the island is safe for tourists and that JAWS is not a threat!

In my Leadership and Management course on final exam day, the first thirty minutes of JAWS was screened. Then the students were suppose to analyze the the management style used: Participative/ Democratic. The mayor washes his hands of the situation and let’s the citizens decide.

I still remember a few of my students approaching me and stating: “Finals are scary enough! You didn’t have to show us a scary movie!”

My response: “It’s Hollywood. It was a rubber shark. You can see it up close at Universal Studios. As Nurses we are put into many scary situations. And making the best decisions in those moments is important.”

Movies make for great teaching tools. Even if they are scary. Life, however can be ten times scarier. What both the Mayor in JAWS and the Mayor in Ghostbusters 2 can teach us all : Don’t pretend like everything is bright and sunny when a killer shark is on the loose or a giant man ghost!