At WMed, our standardized patients are part-time employees trained to portray the roles of patients, family members or others during an array of exercises that allow students to hone their physical exam, history-taking and communication skills.
Our standardized patients represent a diverse group who strive to help our students succeed by being excellent listeners and focusing on the educational goals of the numerous scenarios that are presented during training for our future physicians in the medical school’s 24,000 square-foot Simulation Center.
While it is helpful for our standardized patients to have had prior contact with doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, physical therapists and other health care providers, it is not essential to their role at WMed.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I become a standardized patient?
Men and women in all age groups and of all backgrounds are welcome to apply. If positions are available, they can be found in our current openings. We interview people individually to discuss how they may contribute to the learning environment of the students. We are seeking people who understand the unusual requirements of this program. This position is not for everyone. It is best suited for individuals who have some flexibility in their schedules, as the majority of activities in the Simulation Center occur Monday through Friday during business hours.
- Teach and assess clinical skills of interdisciplinary healthcare providers
- Teach and assess physical examinations and procedural techniques
- Train and assess non-medical professionals in communication and interpersonal skills
- Document skills of healthcare providers and non-medical personnel
- Provide detailed feedback (verbal and written) on learner performance
- Standardized patients will be recorded for teaching and assessment purposes
- High school diploma
- Ability to communicate clearly and effectively
- Ability to read and interpret documents such as training materials and procedure manuals
- Ability to write reports and correspondence
- Ability to memorize and recall patient case and assessment checklist items
- Must be computer literate in order to communicate via email
- Will I be paid to be a SP?
Yes, standardized patients are compensated for their time. Rates are $15/hour for training; $20/hour for an event/session.
- How do standardized patients know what to say when they’re interviewed by a student?
Prior to an exercise, standardized patients are given a "patient case" or script detailing their current medical problem, past medical history, family and social situation, and the emotional state they need to portray. Standardized patients take on their role by using specific body language, movements, and responses to a physical examination. SPs receive thorough training by our SP educators before they are asked to portray a case. Training usually involves practice questions with other SPs or watching a video of the case portrayal. SP educators ensure that our SPs feel comfortable in a role and train them to look for specific student responses and skills, to record them, and to give feedback to the students on their performances.
- Why would someone want to be a standardized patient?
Our standardized patients help educate future health care professionals and play an active role in numerous scenarios and training exercises that are constantly changing, growing and evolving. Our SPs typically have an interest in learning about health, have an outgoing personality and enjoy meeting our learners, faculty and staff.
Being a SP at WMed takes energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communication and a high level of comfort with your own health. It is very rewarding work and our SPs provide an invaluable learning experience for health care professionals.
- Do students know SPs are not real patients?
All students are aware that they are seeing SPs, and they are asked to perform histories and physical examinations just as they would with real patients. SPs are asked to remain professional and stay in character to make the encounter as real and beneficial to the student as possible.
- Do SPs grade medical students?
SPs may be asked to complete a checklist as a record of an encounter with a student. SPs might also be asked to provide both positive and constructive feedback to the students based on their performances. Feedback can be given both verbally and in writing.
- Do SPs decide whether learners pass or fail a test?
No. It would not be fair to expect someone without medical training to assess the clinical skills of learners, and it would not be fair to our learners either. Our SPs record the events of encounters with out students on a checklist for the purpose of scoring. SPs are trained to document and give feedback on students’ communication skills.
- What type of physical examination will be done?
Students perform physical examinations based on the patient case. The examinations may include listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope; pressing on the abdomen, neck, face and limbs; using a scope to look in the ears, eyes, nose and throat; taking a pulse and blood pressure; checking muscle strength, reflexes, range of motion and gait. Breast, pelvic, genital and rectal examinations are not performed. Invasive procedures such as a blood draw, X-ray or throat culture, also are not performed.
- Will there always be a physical examination performed?
No some encounters are interview-only.
- Do SPs have to remove their clothing during a physical examination?
SPs may be required to wear hospital gowns during some sessions. When a hospital gown is worn the SP may wear shorts and, in the case of females, a sports bra may also be worn.
- Do SPs have to know a lot about medicine?
No. Patient cases will contain all the information one needs for portrayal and feedback.
- What skills do SPs need?
Our SPs use a wide range of skills. A SP will need to role-play and work with a varied group of people. If a physical exam is part of the encounter it is important that one is comfortable with his or her body and letting others touch and examine him or her. Strong written and verbal communication skills are helpful. Punctuality, reliability and flexibility are important.
- Do SPs need to be actors?
No, although many actors do work as SPs. The overall focus is to provide students with educational opportunities, not on performance or dramatic interpretation. Playing a patient case is extremely repetitive, it is important that the patient's portrayal remains standardized with each encounter. Many actors and non-actors find this work rewarding. You will contribute to the education of future health care providers, and many students are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with SPs and receive feedback on their skills.
- How often do SPs work?
Our SPs work on an as-needed or PRN basis; SPs are paid as employees of the medical school, and the times and dates of shifts are scheduled according to student needs and program requirements.
- Is there an age requirement to be a standardized patient?
Yes, anyone over the age of 18 can be a SP.
- Is being an SP easy?
Being a standardized patient is not easy and it is not for everybody. The role requires concentration during interviews and examinations, and SPs must be able to respond exactly as the real patient would, and only as that patient. SPs must be able to maintain not only the patient's character but also simulate their physical condition during an entire encounter (15-60 minutes). After the encounter is over, SPs must be able to remember what the learner did and then record it on a checklist. They also provide written and/or verbal feedback directly to learners after an encounter and must be able to provide feedback several times in succession without any changes. The job takes energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communications skills, and a high level of comfort with your own health and in dealing with the medical profession.
For additional questions, please contact Connie Worline, Clinical Director and Standardized Patient Coordinator, at 269.337.6133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.