Who are SPs?
SPs are healthy people who have been carefully trained to realistically reproduce the history and the physical and emotional findings of an actual patient. They offer a readily available and standardized tool for the education and the evaluation of student performance. This allows for teaching and assessment of clinical skills in a patient-oriented and problem-based manner. Presented with a realistic patient problem, the student is expected to determine what kind of person or problem is represented. This allows him/her to experience the personal responsibility of assessing, managing, and dealing with a patient’s problems.
SPs are willing to represent an unending variety of patients to students, at any level of training, to practice and/or evaluate the ‘art and science of therapeutic communication, history taking, and physical examination.
History of the Standardized Patient (SP) Program
The role of SP was first conceived by neurologist Dr. Harold Barrows in the 1960s at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He found that the real patients available for teaching and examination were not providing consistent and valuable experiences for his medical students and were often too sick to practice. He gathered a group of people who could simulate medical conditions. The first SP Program was formalized in 1971 at McMaster and this modality of teaching has since spread around the world.
The SP Program has steadily increased in use so far around the world and it is now used to assist in the education and assessment of health care professionals through undergrad, post-grad, and continuing education events primarily within the Faculty of Medicine.
Why do we use SPs?
SPs provide a high frequency, low consequence experience where our students gain valuable experience they might have to spend years to acquire in other educational models. SPs provide “color” to other simulated experiences where they may play family members of other healthcare providers in an effort to continue to each student for experiential and examination purposes.
We have pure communication courses like Basics of Medical Interviewing (BMI), Advanced Medical Interviewing (AMI), and Behavioral Medicine. In these courses, students will learn how to connect to patients empathically and to perform structured medical interviews. In small group learning activities, together with the teacher, standardized patients will play different roles and will respond to students’ questions based on a given scenario. The important role of the SP is also to give individual feedback to each student based on the feelings elicited by the encounter and within a given frame.
Finally, there are more complex courses where there is a mix of communication and physical examination called OSCE (Objective structure clinical examination) station. OSCE is an exam where the student has to conduct an interview and focus the examination on a patient about a given problem (it could be a headache, back pain, sinusitis, neurological disorder, dizziness, fever, etc.).
The expectations are different depending on the scenario that they are part of. SPs may be asked to:
Be themselves or to respond to questions related to their fictional medical history;
Act as other member of a healthcare team within simulated experience;
Act as a family member for a patient;
Represent certain medical conditions;
SPs may also be given adjuncts to help them present with wounds to their body, skin disorders, or other physical signs and symptoms of disease. Fear not, these are all done through make-up and silicone!
We never ask that our SPs participate in invasive examination or questioning;
Participate in the evaluation of the students that pass through their events.
The application period is open until August 19, 2023.
We will contact eligible candidates from August 22 to August 26, 2023.
For additional information, you can contact: