I'm always fascinated to hear about people's jobs -- you know, what happens on the other side of the counter. On Believer, Leslie Jamison discusses her role as a Medical Actor, someone who gets paid to basically "play sick." Armed with a script that tells them what's "wrong" with them, Medical Actors put on a show for the medical students to guess.
Medical acting works like this: you get a script and a paper gown. You get $13.50 an hour. Our scripts are ten to twelve pages long. They outline whats wrong with usnot just what hurts but how to express it. They tell us how much to give away, and when. We are supposed to unfurl the answers according to specific protocols. The scripts dig deep into our fictive lives: the ages of our children and the diseases of our parents, the names of our husbands real-estate and graphic-design firms, the amount of weight weve lost in the past year, the amount of alcohol we drink each week.
My specialty case is Stephanie Phillips, a twenty-three-year-old who suffers from something called conversion disorder. She is grieving the death of her brother, and her grief has sublimated into seizures. Her disorder is news to me. I didnt know you could have a seizure from sadness. Shes not supposed to know either. Shes not supposed to think the seizures have anything to do with what shes lost.
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