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College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Standardized Patients

What is a Standardized Patient?

A Standardized Patient (SP) is a person who is trained to simulate accurately and consistently the medical condition of an actual patient. This is accomplished by recreating the medical and family history, the physical findings, and the personality of that patient. WesternU utilizes SPs in the training and evaluation of medical students and residents. As an SP, you will be interviewed and examined by medical students or residents, just as you would by your family doctor. However, instead of disclosing your personal medical, family and bio-social history, you will answer questions based on the “facts” of the “patient case” that you have learned. Currently, most medical schools in the United States are utilizing SPs for teaching and testing medical students. Although SPs do not replace real patients in the curriculum, they do provide a realistic learning resource for students.

How will I know what to say when the students interview me?

You will be given a “case,” or a script, detailing the current medical problem, past medical history, family and bio-social situation, and emotional state of the patient that you will need to portray. You will learn to appear as the patient by using specific body language, movement, and responses to a physical examination. You will also be trained to look for specific student responses and skills, to record them, and to give feedback to the students on their performance.

Do students and residents know that an SP is not a real patient?

All students and residents are aware that they are seeing a Standardized Patient. However, they are instructed to treat the SP as if they are a real patient. Thus, the students’ and residents’ interview and physical examination techniques and skills, are, in all respects, the same as if they were seeing a real patient who was presenting them with a real medical condition.

Will I have to grade the student?

You will not be asked to give any student or resident a grade. You will be asked to complete a checklist as a record of the encounter. Some of our programs also require SPs to provide both positive and constructive feedback to the students or residents based on their performance.

What type of physical examination should I expect?

This will depend on the type of patient case. A focused physical examination may include: listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope; pressing on your abdomen, neck, face, and limbs to assess tenderness; using a scope to look in your ears, eyes, nose, and throat; taking your pulse, respiration, and blood pressure; checking muscle strength, reflexes, range of motion, and gait. Breast, pelvic, genital or rectal examinations will not be performed. Invasive procedures (blood draw, X-ray, throat cultures) will not be performed.

Will I have to remove my clothing?

Hospital gowns might be worn for a particular patient case. If so, we will provide the gown and you will always be permitted to wear underclothing underneath.

Is an SP’s personal health history relevant?

Maybe. Often times if an SP has a scar or a medical condition that is not related to the case, he/she is able to state “not part of the case”; however, certain health conditions make it difficult to be a successful SP. For instance, since most interactions with students are limited by time, an SP who is hard of hearing and frequently unable to hear student questions would disadvantage the students he/she might work with. In addition, an individual who has had a great deal of experience with health care providers, either personally or on behalf of a friend or relative, is not necessarily “more qualified” to be an SP than someone who simply gets a routine check-up now and then. Having had certain kinds of medical conditions or particularly “good” or “”bad” experiences with health care, are not measures of an effective SP.

What characteristics make an effective SP?

If you are someone who:

  • Can maintain a strong level of concentration;
  • Has an interest in education;
  • Has a flexible schedule;
  • Possesses strong written and verbal communication skills;
  • Is comfortable with others touching and examining you;
  • Values punctuality and commitment,

Then you can be an SP! SP work is part-time and very rewarding. People of all demographics are always needed.

Is acting experience a prerequisite to working as an SP?

No. The focus of SP work is on providing the student or resident with an educational opportunity, not on performance or dramatic interpretation. Additionally, many cases do not require extensive acting ability, only the ability to remember case details and know what information to give at what times. Playing a patient case is repetitive, as the same portrayal must be done for every student during a specific event.

What are SPs paid?

Compensation ranges from $15 to $25 an hour depending on the event. Standardized Patients are hired as part-time, contract workers (without benefits). Most SPs are paid through direct deposit.

How often might I work as an SP?

We schedule SP events for medical students and residents year round, although most work occurs during the traditional school year calendar. On average, there are 8 possible days of work each month; however, not all SPs can expect to work every event. SP work is a great way to earn supplemental income in a meaningful and rewarding environment; however, it is not traditional, consistently-scheduled work. Events usually occur Mondays-Thursdays and run from late morning until early evening. Once in a while we will have an event on a Friday or Saturday. If we do not contact you immediately for work, that doesn’t mean we are not interested in utilizing your talents. Rather, it may indicate we are not scheduled in the near future to do an event that matches your particular demographics, skills, experience, etc.

What can I expect if I am hired as an SP?

Each individual who auditions for our program is carefully screened to determine how to best use his/her skills or attributes. As an SP you are expected to learn “facts” about the case that you will be portraying. These “facts” are just like the facts in your own personal situation, except they are not about you; they are about the fictitious person that you are portraying. You will be expected to memorize these “facts.” Your portrayal of the case will be much like when you visit your own health care provider, except you will respond to a student’s questions with the “facts” that you have memorized. Training time for each event varies from 1-3 hours during which the SP Educator running the event clarifies case details and trains on the specific physical exam items associated with the case. Additionally, you must spend time learning your case independently, as we expect SPs to have cases memorized when they come to work an event. Although this job is very rewarding, it is not easy nor is it for everybody. It requires intense concentration while being interviewed and examined. You must be able to maintain not only the patient’s character but also simulate their physical condition during an encounter. After the encounter, recall of the student’s performance is necessary in order to fill out a computerized checklist. You may also be required to provide verbal feedback directly to the student. In order to provide every student with the same experience, you will perform these steps repeatedly throughout the event. Being an SP takes energy, focus, memorization, discipline, attention to detail, and excellent communication skills.

How do I apply to become an SP?

For Pomona Campus location:

Fill out this application.
Note: This application has a Submit button. You may want to print a copy of your completed application prior to sending via Submit.


For Lebanon Campus location:

Fill out this application.
Please email any questions to csalisbury@westernu.edu