The impact of simulation on people who act as simulated patients: a focus group study

Med Educ. 2006 Aug;40(8):781-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02529.x.


Objective: Previous studies have shown that people who act as simulated patients (SPs) experience negative effects caused by performing patient roles. This study was performed to further explore the impact of simulation and the factors that might affect this impact. The aim was to find ways of preventing negative effects of simulation impacting on our SPs.

Methods: Focus groups interviews were conducted among 35 SPs at Skillslab, University of Maastricht. The discussion was guided by 6 pre-established items.

Results: The majority of the SPs appeared to experience negative effects of performing a patient role. The effects were considered as inherent to acting as an SP or due to simulation being a strenuous activity. The impact was short-lived and did not affect SPs' enjoyment of their work. Factors that appeared to affect the impact of performing included: the type of role (whether it is emotionally complex or not); the number of consecutive performances; the length of time between performances; the giving of feedback; the amount of experience, and students.

Discussion: Although the SPs were found to experience negative effects caused by playing patient roles, the frequency and intensity of the negative effects were minor. The focus group discussions led to various suggestions for measures to reduce the impact of simulation.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Belgium
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Simulation*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Role Playing