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PhD study

'Empathy Machines: Using theatre and film in the training of compassionate and reflective health professionals.'

Artistic Director of tree fish productions, Pete Carruthers, is also undertaking a PhD by Portfolio with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The title of the PhD thesis is ‘Empathy Machines: Using theatre and film in the training of compassionate and reflective health professionals.’

Starting in April 2022, the PhD is evaluating the impact of two historic projects and one live element:

  • Historic project #1 covers the use of Pete’s three short films about military veterans’ mental health and transition to civilian life. These films have been used nationally and internationally to train health professionals working with military veterans. (To watch the trailers for the three films, click here)

  • Historic project #2 covers the R&D phases of The Possibility of Colour and the 2022 Northern tour of the play, specifically the impact on the learning outcomes of student health professionals. 

  • Live project #3 covers ongoing screenings of a recorded performance of The Possibility of Colour as part of student nurse education, as well as the development of new simulated practice exercises that will form part of a new film and theatre based simulated practice learning experience for student nurses.



  • Deepening understanding of the effectiveness of film and theatre as a pedagogical tool within the training of health professionals.​


  • Deepening understanding of how and why student health professionals respond differently to film and theatre compared to the more traditional pedagogical approach.


  • Producing a best practice model for the use of film and theatre as a pedagogical tool for future training.

If you would like to know more about the PhD, including how you can involve your students, please contact Pete via the contact page.

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