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K-State graduate studies relatively unexplored topic

By Jerred McKee

For patients with kidney failure, treatment can be long, emotionally tough, and downright boring, but Jamie Ansley, recent master’s graduate in theater with a concentration in drama therapy, is trying to make those obstacles easier to overcome.

During her time at Kansas State University, Ansley explored the effects of drama therapy on hemodialysis patients. She was among the first in the world to study such a topic, and current graduate students are continuing to build upon her research today.

Ansley, a former professional hospital clown, has a family member who will soon be receiving dialysis treatments — the treatment for kidney failure uses a machine that filters toxins from blood, and then returns clean blood to the body. Patients tend to have a lot of time on their hands because they must follow a strict treatment schedule and typically visit the clinic two or three times a week for up to four hours per visit.

“I learned that dialysis centers generally provide a tiny little TV, and they have to sit in a chair for hours,” said Ansley. “They don’t have a lot of engagement during their treatment, and because they have to have it the rest of their lives, it can be depressing for the patient.”

Ansley started working with patients at a Manhattan clinic, where she would provide pictures, games, guided imagery and music. She asked questions to help patients verbally improvise a scene, story or character. Some patients created a detective character, and story themes included death, loneliness and friendship.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Ansley. “It really changed the whole atmosphere of the room in many ways. Often there was laughter and that’s contagious. Sometimes the staff would join in, and other patients were interested in what we were doing.”

With the goal of becoming a top 50 research institution by 2025 on the horizon, students like Ansley are not only pushing new and innovative research in often overlooked fields, but also reaching out and improving the lives of Manhattan community members.

“I felt really lucky to get into K-State Drama Therapy Program,” said Ansley. “The community and support was tremendous. It comes a lot from the instructors I had, such as Salley Bailey, who were more than willing to spend extra time with me to help and answer questions. I just feel so much gratitude. There was a strong sense of community in my cohort – those are friends I’ll have for life, and I value that so much.”

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