The Center for Advanced Clinical Learning (CACL)
A standardized patient (also called a simulated patient or SP) is a lay person trained to enact a clinical encounter (“case”) for the purpose of training and/or testing medical personnel. The SP then portrays this "case" as accurately, consistently, and realistically as possible for each student. The portrayal may be in an exam format or for training/instructional purposes. The exam method allows the students to be evaluated on the information they obtain from the SP, their interpersonal interaction with the SP, and their ability to correctly process the information they obtain (i.e. make a diagnosis, etc.).
In the clinical setting, not all students see the same patient problems making it difficult to grade their performance relative to one another. Additionally, faculty have different attitudes on grading that may not be consistent among all students. An exam using standardized patients (called a Clinical Performance Exam or CPX) levels the field for all students because all students encounter the same "patient(s)." SP performance consistency is key to testing the clinical skills of the medical student in a way that puts all students on equal ground.
SP training consists of learning a case history and/or physical problem to simulate a real medical condition. Everyone has been a patient at some point, so no particular experience is needed. However, it is of utmost importance that you learn your case thoroughly. The students’ will use the information they obtain from the SP history and physical to formulate a diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, and determine counseling and/or education the patient might need.
Students who are finishing the third year of medical school. These students spent this year rotating through the different medical specialties such as Surgery, Pediatrics, Family Practice, etc.
SPs evaluate the students on their interpersonal skills ("bedside manner"), history taking and physical exam skills by utilizing a checklist. The checklist includes about 25 items that are important to each case.
The students also are evaluated on their ability to process the information they obtain from the SP. This is done in a written exam fashion and is graded by the faculty.