Training physicians in communication skills with adolescents using teenage actors as simulated patients

Med Educ. 2001 Mar;35(3):206-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.00764.x.


Role-play exercises with simulated patients may serve the purpose of training professionals to develop appropriate communication skills with adolescents. Authentic adolescent responses toward the physicians may be achieved by actors who themselves are in their teenage years. We describe our experience in continuing medical education programmes for primary care physicians aimed at improving their skills in communicating with adolescents, using simulation methodology with teenage actors. Eight 16-17-year-old actors from the drama department of a high school for the arts were trained to simulate 20 cases with characteristic adolescent medical problems, as well as confidentiality issues and home and school problems. The actors performed in front of large groups of 20-30 paediatricians, family practitioners, or gynaecologists in continuing medical education. Diagnostic issues as well as therapeutic and management approaches were discussed, while the actors provided feedback to the trainees about their understanding and their feeling regarding the issues raised during the exercises. Normally, smaller learning groups are more suitable for such training purposes; nevertheless the participants could appreciate learning the principles of careful listening, a non-judgmental approach and assuring confidentiality. A collaboration of medical schools and postgraduate programmes with high schools which have drama departments may be fruitful in the teaching of adolescent medicine with special emphasis on communication skills with teenagers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Role Playing
  • Teaching / methods