In 2011, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Arts Integrated Resources team began a partnership with the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences to create the Care Equity Project (CEP). Developed as a free resource to address KP’s mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, CEP has now been experienced by almost one thousand UCCS students on their way to a career in health care.

Susan Garrett, MSN, RN, CNE and Instructor at UCCS talks about why CEP is a valuable part of her curriculum:

“The Care Equity Project provides students with specific tools that help them interact with patients. Students who participate in the workshop are able to examine their own preconceived ideas about persons living in poverty and explore their biases.”



On the value of integrating performing arts into teaching:

“Theatre and experiential learning is critical to addressing biases in a non-threatening manner. Students connect with the feelings of those experiencing inequity in health care – something that can’t be accomplished through lecture or reading.”


What her students take away:

“A recent graduate told me that CEP helped her better connect with the teen mothers in her job in labor and delivery. She felt she could truly hear and understand their concerns and was a much more effective nurse.”




The Care Equity Project covers topics including poverty, bias, social determinants of health, cultural humility, food insecurity and compassion fatigue. Kaiser Permanente Actor/Facilitators use live theatre, role-play, interactive exercises and small group discussion to go beyond traditional teaching methods in order to meet the needs of today’s college students.

Susan says, “The Care Equity Project impacts the students, clinical instructors, community partners and my own teaching. Every semester, I learn more ways to facilitate class discussion by observing the Kaiser Permanente team….A graduate student suggested the KP Arts Integrated Resource group lead all of the classes in nursing school.”

Research supports the value of experiential learning, specifically role-play, as a pedagogical tool. In medical education, those programs that incorporate role-play are often more successful in helping individuals to acquire communication skills in comparison to didactic methods of teaching (Aspegren, 1999; O’Brien et al., 2007). Role-playing provides a variation of the usual teaching methods, and helps balance between theory and practice in a course (Sogurno, 2004).

In interviews with students who engaged in role-play to deepen their understanding of leadership practice, researchers Westrup and Palander in 2013 said students noticed that [role-play] increased their ability to understand different interpretations and various solutions to the problem. Students also believed that acting stimulated their creativity and enhanced their learning.

Role-play and other arts-based techniques are part of KP’s national educational theatre strategy to deliver transformative experiences that cultivate lasting impressions in the hearts and minds of audiences. In March/April 2015, preliminary findings on the Impact of the Care Equity Project at UCCS were published in the Public Health Nursing Journal. Twenty-three percent of nursing students rated the theater piece most valuable, followed by 22% who rated the interactive activities most valuable (Kamau-Small et al., 2015)


Since partnering with UCCS, the Care Equity Project reputation has spread and this curriculum is now embraced by other educational institutions including Arapahoe Community College, University of Colorado schools of Dental Medicine and Physical Therapy, Community College of Aurora and the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.


To schedule the Care Equity Project in your organization, contact Betty Hart,