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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.
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