Pedagogies of Rhetorical Empathy-in-Action Role Playing and Story Sharing in Healthcare Education

Main Article Content

Lillian Campbell
Elisabeth L. Miller


Since successful healthcare relies heavily on a practitioner’s ability to empathize with the patient, the allied health professions—like nursing and speech therapy—have long considered the possibilities and limitations of a pedagogical practice that centers empathy. In this essay, we analyze two such pedagogies: role playing with simulated patients in nursing and story sharing in a multimodal memoir group with aphasic clients in communicative sciences and disorders (CSD). Comparing theories of empathy in these fields as well as interviews with the future nurses and speech therapists participating in these experiences, we show how students engage in what we call “empathy-in-action” through both reflection and enactment and what rhetorical scholarship can gain from attending to these practices. Ultimately, we argue that putting rhetoric, nursing, and CSD in conversation deepens each field’s understanding of how empathy can be taught and learned.

Article Details

Research Articles



Bas-Sarmiento, Pilar, Fernández-Gutiérrez, Martina, Baena-Baños, Maria, Correro-Bermejo, Alba, Soler-Martins, Pablo S., & de la Torre-Moyano, Sonia. (2020). Empathy training in health sciences: A systematic review. Nurse Education in Practice, 44.

Batson, C. Daniel. (2009). These things called empathy: Eight related but distinct phenomena. In Jean Decety & William Ickes (Eds.), The Social Neuroscience of Empathy (pp. 3-16). MIT Press.

Blankenship, Lisa. (2019). Changing the subject: A theory of rhetorical empathy. University Press of Colorado.

Bourdieu, Pierre. (1990). The logic of practice. Stanford University Press.

Britt, Elizabeth. (2018). Reimagining advocacy: Rhetorical education in the legal clinic. Penn State Press.

Brumfitt, Shelagh. (1993). Losing your sense of self: What aphasia can do. Aphasiology, 7(6), 569-575.

Brunero, Scott, Lamont, Scott, & Coates, Melissa. (2010). A review of empathy education in nursing. Nursing inquiry, 17(1), 65-74.

Campbell, Lillian. (2017). Simulation genres and student uptake: The patient health record in clinical nursing simulations. Written Communication, 34(3), 255-279.

Campbell, Lillian. (2018). The rhetoric of health and medicine as a “teaching subject”: Lessons from the medical humanities and simulation pedagogy. Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(1), 7–20.

Campbell, Lillian. (2021). Rhetorical body work: Professional embodiment in health provider education and the technical writing classroom. Technical Communication Quarterly, 30(2), 157-173.

Campbell, Lillian, & Angeli, Elizabeth L. (2019). Embodied healthcare intuition: A taxonomy of sensory cues used by healthcare providers. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 2(4), 353-383.

Chapey, Roberta, et al. (2000). “Life participation approach to aphasia: A statement of values for the future.” ASHA Leader, 5(3), 4-7.

Charon, Rita. (2006). Narrative medicine: Honoring the stories of illness. Oxford University Press.

Clark, Irene L., & Fischbach, Ronald. (2008). Writing and learning in the health sciences: Rhetoric, identity, genre, and performance. The WAC Journal, 19, 15–28.

Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. (2018). Standards for accreditation of graduate education programs in audiology and speech-language pathology (2017). Retrieved from Accreditation-Standards-

Dearing, Karen S., & Steadman, Sheryl. (2009). Enhancing intellectual empathy: The lived experience of voice simulation. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 45(3), 173-182.

Destigter, Todd. (1999). Public displays of affection: Political community through critical empathy. Research in the Teaching of English, 33(3), 235-244.

Fountain, T. Kenny. (2014). Rhetoric in the flesh: Trained vision, technical expertise, and the gross anatomy lab. Routledge.

Fourie, Robert J. (2009). “Qualitative study of the therapeutic relationship in speech and language therapy: perspectives of adults with acquired communication and swallowing disorders.” International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. 44(6), 979-999.

Freedman, Aviva, Adam, Christine, & Smart, Graham. (1994). Wearing suits to class: Simulating genres and simulations as genre. Written Communication, 11(2), 193-226.

Hertel, John P., & Millis, Barbara J. (2002). Using simulations to promote learning in higher education: An introduction. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Holland, Audrey, & Beeson, Pelagie M. (1993). Finding a new sense of self: What the clinician can do to help. Aphasiology, 7(6), 581-584.

Holland, Audrey, & Nelson, Ryan. (2018). Counseling in communication disorders (A wellness perspective). (3rd ed.). Plural Publishing.

Kelley, Kevin. J., Lepo, April W. & Frinzi, Christa. (2011). Empathy and nursing education from mirror neurons to the experience of empathy: 21st century nursing education. International Journal of Human Caring, 15(4), 22-28.

Leake, Eric. (2016). Writing pedagogies of empathy: As rhetoric and disposition. Composition Forum, 24, Summer.

Lindquist, Julie. (2004). Class affects, classroom affectations: Working through the paradoxes of strategic empathy. College English, 67(2), 187-209.

Luterman, David. (2020). “On teaching counseling: Getting beyond informational counseling.” American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 29, 903-908.

Lynch, Dennis. (1998). Rhetorics of proximity: Empathy in Temple Grandin and Cornel West. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 28(1), 5-23.

Miller, Elisabeth L. (2019). Negotiating communicative access in a memoir group for people with aphasia.” Written Communication, 36(2), 197-230.

Moore, Lisa Abbott. (2010) Being empathetic: Benefits and challenges for the clinician and client. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation, 17(1), 20-29.

Panosky, Denise & Diaz, Desiree. (2009). Teaching caring and empathy through simulation. International Journal of Human Caring, 13(3), 44-46.

Ratcliffe, Krista. (2005). Rhetorical listening: Identification, gender, whiteness. SIU Press.

Riley, Jeanna. (2002). “Counseling: An approach for speech-language pathologists.” Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 29, 6-16.

Saldaña, Johnny. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications.

Siebers, Tobin. (2008). Disability theory. University of Michigan Press.

Simmons-Mackie, Nina, & Damico, Jack. (2011). “Counseling and aphasia treatment missed opportunities.” Topics in Language Disorders, 31(4), 336–351.

Strekalova, Yulia A., Krieger, Janice L., Kleinheksel, A. J., & Kotranza, Aaron. (2017). Empathic communication in virtual education for nursing students: I’m sorry to hear that. Nurse Educator, 42(1), 18-22.

Swacha, Kathryn Y. (2018). “Bridging the gap between food pantries and the kitchen table”: Teaching embodied literacy in the technical communication classroom. Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(3), 261–282.

Sekhon, Jasvinder, Oates, Jennifer, Kneebone, Ian, & Rose, Miranda (2019). Counselling training for speech-language therapists working with people affected by post-stroke aphasia: A systematic review. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 54(3), 321-346.

Sylvan, Lesley. (2019). “How to teach concern: Inspiring speech-language pathology graduate students to develop empathy and advocacy with the power of personal stories.” Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences & Disorders, 3(2).

Yam, Sharon. (2018). “Interrogating the ‘deep story’: Storytelling and narratives in the rhetoric classroom. Composition Forum.