Dr. Cory Jenks earned his PharmD from the University of South Carolina in 2011 and completed a PGY1 residency at the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in 2012. His past pharmacy experience has included time as a retail pharmacist, outpatient clinical pharmacist, and inpatient clinical pharmacist. Currently, he practices as an Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacy Specialist where he applies his passion for lifestyle interventions in the management of chronic disease. Cory is also an accomplished improv comedian, having started on his comedy journey in 2013. Since then, Cory has coached, taught, and performed improv for thousands of people. Today, Cory travels the country (or at least Zooms around) teaching other healthcare professionals how to apply the valuable skills of improv comedy to create a more adaptable, empathetic, and humanizing healthcare experience. When not working or performing improv, Cory enjoys playing racquetball, basketball and golf, exploring the science of disease management through lifestyle, and is currently earning his Master’s Degree in “Dad Jokes” with the help of his two sons Jacob and Henry.
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Highlights from the interview
Cory uses his voice as a pharmacist and as an improv comedian. He works full-time in an ambulatory care setting under collaborative practice agreements. He manages a number of chronic disease states, including hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Cory does improv comedy on-stage. He also helps other healthcare providers learn the skills of improv to become more adaptable, empathetic, and create a humanizing health experience.
Healthcare providers can be robotic and unsympathetic toward patients, and when unexpected situations arise, healthcare professionals might struggle. Improv helps healthcare professionals create a better experience for patients; it helps them connect with patients. Sometimes, improv helps patients laugh. Other times, improv helps healthcare professionals listen and communicate better. It even helps transfer knowledge to patients in a way they understand, care about, and act on.
What’s the “Yes, and…” part of doing improv in healthcare? “Yes, and” is the one big rule of improv. Those two words form the basis of improv comedy. It means, “To agree and build together.”
You can’t, “Yes, and…” everything in healthcare. When the default answer is typically, “No,” improv helps healthcare professionals say, “Yes, and…” We find reasons to help when we say, “Yes.” Patients feel seen, heard, and understood as a result.
For conflict resolution, coming to agreements is helpful. “I agree that this situation isn’t ideal, but let’s try to work together…”.
Improv gives healthcare professionals another way to approach a problem, but the right mindset is needed.
Improv has rules, but within the rules, anything can happen. You do improv every time you interact with a patient. The question is, “How well do you do it?” Improv gives you the skills to make a more enjoyable experience, which will improve outcomes.
Cory says there are no mistakes in improv. There are only gifts. We can choose to make what is given to us into a gift.
We did some improv with 3 common situations community practice (retail) pharmacists encounter.
- “This isn’t covered by your insurance.”
- “We need to call the prescriber to change the medication.”
- “The drug is out of stock.”
Improv can help with “Chatty Cathys” and “Gabby Garys” too. Accept their reality (that they want to talk to you), but also acknowledge your reality as a pharmacist. “I want to hear you, but I also have 4 other people waiting. Give me the highlights. I don’t want you to feel ignored, but I am busy.”
You’re not supposed to talk about what you’re doing while you’re doing it. If you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, don’t talk about making the sandwich while you’re making the sandwich! Talk to the other person about something else while you’re doing something routine.
Cory delivers inspiring, improv-based keynote addresses.
He is available to help pharmacy schools (and other health professions) include improv in their curriculum.
During the pandemic, Cory’s improv workshops take place via Zoom. He talks to the participants, plays games, and teaches evidence-based improv comedy. What’s “evidence-based improv comedy?” Applying improv comedy to healthcare situations. Cory shares why improv is a useful tool in healthcare. There is medical literature showing the utility of role play and improv in making healthcare professionals better communicators and empathizers.
Workshop participants love playing games! It’s something that is not graded. There are no wrong answers. It’s ok to try new things in workshops. In comparison, trying improv on-the-job when you’re inexperienced may have consequences (patients may question your sincerity).
Cory’s improv workshops help participants try new things in a zero-pressure setting. He gets people out of their comfort zone, but they are happy about it even though they are challenging themselves. Pharmacists can earn CE credit through Cory’s workshops! It’s the most fun CE you’ll ever do!