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Students From 2 Unlikely Majors Teaming Up For Life-Changing Project

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Dealing with a terminally ill patient is one of the hardest things a nurse has to do. Now, a new program at Stevenson University teaches students how to handle the tough scenario.

This unique project allows nursing and acting students to perfect their skills.

It's a scene that plays out in hospitals and hospice centers every day. A terminally ill patient dies.

The nurses have to give the families the sad news.

But this isn't a medical setting. It's a classroom at Stevenson University.

The students are acting.

"The theater students get the opportunity to work on character development and improvisational skills, and the nursing students get to work with live human beings in a end of life scenario," said program coordinator Ryan Clark.

Clark is spearheading the new program.

The theater students play patients and family members. The nursing students give the grieving loved ones comfort and counseling.

Emily Herzog works at a hospice center, and says the re-enactment is very accurate.

"That's real life. That happens to everybody, so it's important that nurses get exposure to that early so they know what to do," Herzog said.

The acting students say they're used to performing on stage, but this audience feels especially important.

"We're really drawing from real life experiences and real life deaths and it's tough. It's something that needs to be done," said student Jack Rizzo.

Rizzo plays the brother of a woman who passes away.

For three weeks, he and his classmates have had to do research on the illness the patient suffers from, as wells rehearse the lines.

"I was balling my eyes out in there," Rizzo said. "We want to make it as realistic as possible."

Organizers say they hope the students learn that having empathy for others is important, whether it's in real life or for a performance.

Some medical schools hire actors to work as standardized patients. This is an introduction for students who want to pursue those types of jobs.

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