This paper presents concepts and strategies for using standardized patients (SP) in teaching and evaluation of nursing students. SP encounters are an alternative to clinical experiences and a standardized criterion for student performance evaluation. Careful development of encounters, selection and training of SPs, support and debriefing of all participants are essential to a positive SP encounter. SP encounters should be developed based on objectives and competency criteria and relate to actual events. Encounter scripts incorporating any "traditional" language often associated with a specific medical condition are beneficial to standardizing the process. SP preparation involves providing background on medical conditions, feedback when practicing the role-play, and validation of performance consistency. Orientation of students and faculty to the SP experience ensures that participants stay in role. SPs can also be utilized to complete written evaluation tools and provide verbal feedback to students. All participants should evaluate the encounter process for future improvement.