Supporting healthcare professionals through challenging times

Coping with PPE

Actors share top tips for healthcare professionals


Across the country, healthcare professionals are coping with wearing heavy and restrictive PPE for prolonged periods of time. We’ve created a sharable digital resource filled with top tips from professional actors and performers who are used to working in restrictive clothing and equipment.


Performing Medicine has been providing courses for healthcare professionals for over 15 years. We draw on arts-based approaches and methods to teach skills relevant to clinical practice. 

Everything we design is made with healthcare professionals, for healthcare professionals, based on real and immediate needs.  At this time of pandemic, providing support and training continues to be a relevant, practical and lasting way to help NHS staff.  

We received this request from Dr Beth Thomas, a colleague at UCLH – 

“‘Many of our healthcare professionals have to be in the full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for a very very very long time, and this time spent is only going to increase.  This outfit is uncomfortable, hot and sweaty. It also makes communication very difficult (between team members and with patients), and can be quite isolating. So by the time they remove all the PPE they are exhausted.  Is this something actors are used to and have any top tips for? If you do have any very simple ideas to share with our staff that may help them with their well-being & communication while they are wearing the full PPE, please do share them. Just to note that for their protection, it is important that the PPE remains fully intact and so some movements may be limited.”


In response, Performing Medicine invited performers, designers, puppeteers and makers from the theatre and film industry to share their insights. 

Actors are used to wearing restrictive costumes, masks, puppets, animatronics and prosthetics. They offered some simple tips that might be useful when wearing PPE, and shared with us some photos of their extraordinary outfits. We have created a top tips resource to share with healthcare professionals, with tips by performers and creatives from companies and productions such as War Horse, In The Night Garden Live, Kneehigh, His Dark Materials and Figs in Wigs.


The National Theatre production of War Horse (Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)


Although healthcare workers wearing PPE have an entirely different purpose and are working in an intensely emotional and demanding context, actors have useful, practical advice to share about challenges such as orientation, communication and movement in challenging clothing and equipment. Our colleagues working in healthcare have reported that they are keen to hear from people outside the healthcare sector and that this perspective is useful and refreshing.

Suzy Willson, Director of Performing Medicine said …

“We have been working with medical students and healthcare professionals for over 15 years and continue to do so over this extremely challenging period as best we can.

Over recent years there has been growing interest in the potential for culture and health sectors to work together to improve health and well being of our communities.

This current pandemic presents us with a radical moment in which to imagine and implement a profound partnership between culture, health and social care – with the need to support both isolated people and healthcare professionals becoming ever more apparent.  At no other time in our history has society been so open to new thinking about models of health and social care, and culture has a vital role to play.”  


Throughout the pandemic, Performing Medicine will continue to support NHS staff by releasing a suite of digital resources, holding online classes and coaching as well as curating a live programme of support and workshops for staff at respite centres.

Download the Coping with PPE resource here.




Kneehigh Theatre




Thank you to all who contributed tips and images:

Sarah Cameron, Clod Ensemble, Helen Eastman, Figs in Wigs, Kneehigh, Vinnie Monachello, Emily Mytton, The National Theatre production of War Horse (Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg), Mike Shepherd, Jason Thorpe, Mamoru Iriguchi, Silvia Mecuriali, Will Tuckett, Manuel Vason, Yolanda Vazquez, Rachel Warr, Sarah Wright, Tahra Zafar.

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