What are Standardized Patients?

Standardized Patients (SPs) are people from the community who are trained to portray patients with various symptoms. SPs help students and residents learn how to interact with patients in realistic clinical settings and practice physical examination and other clinical skills.

The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine currently has more than 40 highly trained SPs involved in educational activities on the OU Health Sciences Center campus. The Standardized Patient Program (SPP) is coordinated through the Office of Educational Development and Support and the Clinical Skills Education & Testing Center (CSETC).

How are SPs trained?

SPs study case scenarios and are trained to give specific responses, demonstrate specific behaviors and perfect the skills necessary for realistic, standardized portrayals. Training may involve a video review of previous SP-student encounters as well as coaching and role-playing.

What do SPs do?

SPs play the role of patients in realistic clinical training scenarios. In some cases the SP, unlike a real patient, is asked to step out of role at the end of the encounter and provide the student with valuable feedback. In testing situations, SPs complete student evaluations based on the specific set of skills being assessed. 

SPs do not vary their performance from student to student. The SP has been carefully trained to simulate a real patient, presenting not just the patient history, but also the body language, the physical findings, and the emotions and personality.

Who decides what the SPs portray?

Faculty develop all of the patient cases and skills checklists.  Along with the CSETC staff, they participate in SP training to ensure an accurate and realistic portrayal. Frequently, SP cases are shared with other standardized patient programs throughout the nation. 

How is the CSETC set up to use SPs in training?

The CSETC has 12 outpatient clinical exam rooms. Each exam room is accessible bydoctors from a front hallway, where patient charts hang outside the doors and computer workstations are positioned for post-encounter write-ups and evaluations. SPs enter through a private posterior corridor, which also includes one-way glass windows so faculty can monitor SP-student exams in real time.

Each exam room includes a state-of-the-art digital recording system through which all SP encounters are recorded. Students, faculty and SPs can access these recordings 24/7 through the Center's web-accessible video monitoring system. This video capability allows faculty to monitor SP sessions in real time from a remote location or use video recordings to provide the students feedback during follow-up discussions.

Why is it important for students to work with SPs?

Through CSETC training, students gain confidence and a level of comfort with SPs before moving on to work with real patients. SP clinical encounters also allow the faculty to make reliable assessments of the students' interviewing, health assessment and communication skills. 

Who do I talk to about becoming an SP?

Please note that we are not hiring Standardized Patients at this time.

For additional information about the SP Program, or to request application information, please contact Michelle Wallace at 405.271.2769 or Michelle-Wallace@ouhsc.edu.