Wasson Center for Clinical Skills

SPs are interviewed by medical students, pharmacy students, and other health care professionals.

Simulated Patients (SPs) will be given a “patient case” or script detailing the current medical problem, past medical history, family and social situation, and emotional state they will need to portray. SPs will learn to appear as the patient by using specific body language, movement, and responses to physical examination.  SP’s receive thorough training by the SP educator before they are asked to portray the case.  Training usually involves practice questions with other SP’s portraying the case or watching a video of the case portrayal.  The SP educator will make sure the SP feels comfortable in the role before being asked to portray the patient.   Simulated Patients may also be trained to look for specific student responses and skills, to record them, and to give feedback to the students on their performances.

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.

Simulated Patients may be asked to complete a checklist as a record of the encounter. 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 written.

Students will perform physical examinations based on the patient case. These 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 an SP’s pulse and blood pressure; checking muscle strength, reflexes, range of motion and gait. Breast, pelvic, genital or rectal examinations will not be performed, in the SP encounter. Invasive procedures (blood draw, X-ray, throat cultures) will not be performed.

No some encounters are interview only.

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 underneath.

No. Patient cases will contain all the information one needs for portrayal and feedback.

As an SP, one will use a wide range of skills. An 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.

No, although many actors work as SPs. The focus is on providing the student with an educational opportunity, 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.

The work is PRN; SP’s are not paid as employees of the university, but as independent contractors. SP sessions are scheduled according to student needs and program requirements.

Being an SP is not easy and it is not for everybody. It requires concentration while being interviewed and examined. You must be able to respond as the real patient would. You must be able to maintain not only the patient’s character but also simulate their physical condition during an encounter. When the encounter is over you must recall the student’s performance and record it on a checklist. You may also be required to provide verbal feedback directly to the student. You will repeat these tasks many times in succession without change. Being an SP takes energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communication and a high level of comfort with your own health.  It is also very rewarding and SP’s help provide an invaluable learning experience for health care professionals.

Yes, SP’s are compensated for their time.

Call 330.325.6747, 6744 or 6749 or 1.800.686.2511 ext.6747, 6744 or 6749.