Background: Although there is a growing body of literature on the educational use of standardized patients (SP) in teaching and learning, there have been no reviews on their value.
Objective: To determine whether the educational use of SPs has an effect on the knowledge, skills, and behaviour of learners in the health professions.
Methods: English-language articles covering the period 1996-2005 were reviewed to address the issue of to what extent has the use of SPs affected the knowledge, skills and performance of learners. Out of 797 abstracts, 69 articles, which met the review criteria, were selected. An adaptation of Kirkpatrick's model was used to classify and analyse the articles.
Results: Most of the learners were students in medicine and nursing. SPs were used mostly to teach communication skills and clinical skills. The study designs were case-control (29%), pre-test/post-test (24.6%), post-test only (26.1%) and qualitative studies (20.3%). METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES: Most of the studies had weak research designs. More rigorous designs with control or comparison groups should be used in future research.
Conclusions: Most studies reported that the educational use of SPs was valuable. More rigorous studies would support the evidence-based use of SPs in teaching and learning.