Gearhart Clinical Skills Center

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Standardized Patients

Standardized patients (SPs) are individuals employed part-time through UMMC who are trained to portray the roles of patients, family members, or others to allow learners to practice physical exam skills, history taking skills, communication skills, and other exercises. A standardized patient is carefully recruited and trained to take on the characteristics of a real patient, thereby affording the student an opportunity to learn and to be evaluated on clinical skills in a simulated clinical environment.

During an interaction with a student, the SP may:
  • Present case history in response to questioning by the student.
  • Undergo a limited physical examination at the student's direction.
  • Assist students in developing their communication and clinical skills.
  • Assist students in working through difficult emotional situations in a safe environment. 

Another important task for standardized patients is to evaluate and provide feedback to learners following the simulated activities. They are provided with behaviorally-anchored checklists for a specific case and are trained on how to both score the checklist and provide appropriate feedback based on the checklist. Typically, the goal of the evaluation and feedback process is to make it as standardized as possible. In other words, SPs are trained to be able to observe and interpret simulated clinical encounters so that they provide as similar evaluations and feedback as possible.