Carbondale Standardized Patient Program

Table of Contents

    What is a standardized patient? 

    A standardized patient is a person who has been coached to accurately and consistently recreate the history, personality, physical findings, and emotional state of an actual patient. Standardized patients are interviewed and examined, just as you would be by your family doctor, by male and female medical students.

    What does a standardized patient do?

    • Standardized patient encounters are like a visit to your own doctor. The exception is that instead of presenting your own medical condition, you will be trained to present the information related to a specific case.
    • During a typical patient encounter, first-year students will take a medical history (asking questions about your condition) and perform a physical examination.
    • The history taking usually requires your memorization of information such as: patient name, age, occupation, the problem they are experiencing-described in detail. Other information may include family history or past medical information that relates to the case.
    • Patients do not have to memorize answers to all possible questions.
    • No invasive procedures (breast, rectal or genital exams) are done; no lab tests are involved. Information about symptoms that cannot be simulated or which require invasive procedures are presented in written form on an index card for you to give to the student if asked.

    Standard examinations conducted by students include:

    • vital signs (temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate)
    • ear/nose/throat
    • eyes
    • chest/lung/heart exam
    • abdominal exam
    • neurological exam (testing muscle strength, reflexes, etc.)

    What skills are needed to be an effective standardized patient?

    • An ability to memorize a limited amount of case information such as medical history & symptoms.
    • An ability to portray a case in an appropriate manner. For example, a case may require a standardized patient to cough, exhibit pain in a
    • particular region, have difficulty walking, or appear emotionally upset.
    • Standardized patients must be agreeable to being examined by first-year medical students. This is done with supervision by our professional staff.
    • Be reliable and punctual.
    • Be at least 18 years of age.
    • Tuesdays and some Wednesdays are the most needed dates.

    Why are standardized patients used in medical education?

    • Standardized patients provide first-year medical students the opportunity to begin developing patient history taking and examination skills in a controlled learning environment.
    • Clinical faculty and staff are on hand to assist in teaching skills.
    • The comfortable environment helps students learn and practice skills. Because you, the patient, are not really ill, students can learn skills without compromising the "actual" patient.
    • Multiple patients can be trained to portray the same case, which allows each student to receive the same training.

    How many students will I work with?

    In the patient role, you may see students on a one-to-one basis or there may be a group of students (up to 8) working with you. Break time is scheduled between students.

    Who trains standardized patients?

    SIU School of Medicine faculty and staff train patients to simulate medical problems. Training occurs on-site at the medical school in Carbondale. Patients also study case materials at home. Cases will either be sent to you prior to the training session along with a parking permit and a campus map or will be handed out at the day of training.

    How often would I work?

    Patients are needed on a variable basis, usually not more than once or twice per month. Each case requires approximately 1-3 hours of training time. Student sessions run from 1-8 hours.

    How much time does it require to be a standardized patient?

    Each simulated case requires approximately 1-3 hours of paid training time. The time spent with medical students varies depending on the case, the number of students to be seen, and your agreed-upon commitment.

    Why become a standardized patient? 

    • If you have ever experienced a poor patient-physician interaction, you may feel there is nothing you can do to improve the situation. By becoming a standardized patient, you will have an opportunity to be involved with new physician training.
    • Standardized patients help teach students, beginning with their first year of medical school, the importance of eye contact, thoroughness, compassion, and respect.

    What is the application process?

    If you are interested in being a standardized patient, download the Application form and return it as directed. If you cannot download the form, contact Potential patients may be asked to attend a screening session where they are trained to simulate a brief patient case. Successful applicants are then hired as Extra Help employees.

    Click here to download an Application.