Set Up and Execution of an Effective Standardized Patient Program in Medical Simulation

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.


Standardized or simulated patients (SPs) have become an essential aspect of medical education. They date back to the 1960s when Dr. Howard Barrows of the University of Southern California first utilized them to simulate multiple sclerosis patients and trained them to evaluate learners as well. Dr. Paula Stillman of the University of Arizona is identified as another early user of SPs, training actors in the 1970s to portray mothers of child patients to assist students with acquiring appropriate histories. She is also cited as one of the first to use ‘standardized actors’ to teach physical exam and direct students on how to perform aspects of the physical correctly. Building upon these successes, SPs have slowly been embraced in the medical education community, especially at the undergraduate level, where they are utilized for formative assessment in the form of the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) and the summative evaluation in the form of the USMLE Step 2 CS. SPs have also been utilized in graduate medical education in more formative roles and have been applied to other medical disciplines, including nursing, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy. The flexibility of SPs in their ability to be utilized in multiple disciplines and multiple education levels and its superiority in the development of learner interpersonal skills all serve to emphasize the importance of having a strong standardized patient program.

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