Standardized Patient FAQs

1. A standardized patient or SP is an individual trained to portray a specific patient case in a consistent manner. SPs will learn to appear as the patient by using specific body language, movement, and responses to physical examination. During an interaction with a student, the SP presents the case history in response to questioning by the student and/or undergoes physical examinations at the student's direction. Each SP encounter is designed to assess skills appropriate to both the SP's and the student's level of training. 

2. This work has nothing to do with finding dramatic moments, entertaining, or playing to an audience. It has everything to do with disciplining yourself within the needs of the case and exam. It may be appropriate for you to appear anxious, irritable, or confused during an interview if that is part of the training scenario. In addition to portraying the case, you will need to observe the behavior of the learner, provide balanced and objective feedback, and stay flexible to the needs of the faculty in each situation. This work also is confidential, and you will not be permitted to share this material or use it in any public or private performance. When working as an SP it can be very repetitive; it is important that you portray the case exactly the same way for every student who interviews you. 

3. Yes, the students are aware that you are SPs and are told to proceed just as they would with real patients while doing their interviews and physical examinations. 

4. You will be carefully trained to portray a specific patient. You will learn the complete medical history, using your own history whenever possible. As the patient, you will be able to tell the student details about your life such as your work, family, and hobbies. You will be trained to portray the patient's appropriate emotional state. For cases requiring a physical exam you will know how to move as that patient would and also simulate findings while being examined. You will also be trained to give feedback after being interviewed or examined, allowing the student to hear constructive feedback from the patient he/she just interviewed or examined.

5. For patient cases that require no physical examination, SPs wear street clothes. If the students are expected to perform a physical examination, you may be required to wear a hospital gown. Students will perform focused 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. The cases that require these physical examinations are clearly outlined for SPs prior to their agreement to participate in them.

6. Yes. There is no reason for anyone to do anything that might be harmful. The examinations are very basic and do not cause any harm to the patient. All encounters are videotaped and most interactions are observed as they happen, in part for the safety and comfort of the SP.

7. Part of your job as an SP is to record the events of the encounters on a checklist for the purpose of scoring the students. You may also be asked to give both positive and constructive feedback to the students on their interpersonal skills from your perspective as the patient. Faculty ultimately decides whether or not the student passed the exercise.

8. No. Your patient case will contain all the information one needs for portrayal and feedback.

9. It might be. Each patient is matched with a case. An SP who has had an appendectomy could not portray a patient with appendicitis. However, a surgical scar might not matter in a case about a headache, or wrist pain. An SP’s answers on the application will help match the SP to appropriate patient cases.

10. The work can be temporary, part-time, and seasonal. SP sessions are scheduled according to student needs and program requirements. SPs who perform satisfactorily are given first preference for future work, depending on need and case requirements.

11. This job is not easy and it is not for everybody. It requires concentration while being interviewed and examined. You must be able to respond exactly 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 skills and a high level of comfort with your own health.

12. As an SP, you will use a wide range of skills. You will need to role-play and work with a varied group of people. It is important that you are comfortable with your body and letting others touch and examine you. We will conduct individual interviews to find out if you are suitable for the job. Characteristics we look for in the interview are a positive attitude due to the repeated examinations; no biases toward gender, race, religion, national origin, or physical characteristics; reliability and punctuality; someone who understands confidential matters; and someone who is comfortable with their own health and in dealing with health professionals. We also conduct reference and background checks to see if an individual is a good fit before an offer is made.

13. Please fill out the Standardized Patient Application (SP Application) to be considered for a position.  Contact the Standardized Patient Program by calling or sending an e-mail to​ any of the following people:

Nhu Dargis
Andrea Beatty
SPP Coordinator
Rebecca Havens
SPP​ Trainer Coordinator