What is a standardized patient? Standardized patients are actors who authentically portray a patient during healthcare simulation scenarios. They are provided character descriptions that guide them during the simulation on character background, medical history, and current pain. These actors allow students to practice empathy and communication.
Institutions decide to implement standardized patients for an unmatched high-fidelity simulation experience. Incorporating a live person who can engage and interact during the simulation leads to higher satisfaction ratings from students. Incorporating a diverse pool of actors to portray patients is a top priority in most institutions.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are now necessary facets when considering simulation experiences. Actors can now represent themselves as opposed to the former method of diverse skin tone manikins with a Caucasian person portraying the voice. It should not have to be said, but this is not representation. Actors should so authentically represent the patient that skilled clinicians cannot detect them.
When working with standardized patients, they are now able to provide feedback from the patient’s perspective during the debriefing process. They will write or say how the patient felt during the simulation experience they just had. Students report that they care more about what their patient thinks than the facilitators. This is often due to the fact they are so engaged with the scenario they believe the actor is an actual patient. The participants can also ask questions of the patient. No longer are faculty assuming how the patient would feel the standardized patient is now able to speak for them since they were the one in the bed receiving the care.
Starting a standardized patient program is no easy task, but since the industry is turning away from plastic and toward real people, simulation programs are now expected to find the right approach for their institution. Most established programs offer paid positions, some have volunteer programs, and a handful of programs utilize a course for their recruitment.
Companies like Avkin are advising top institutions on how to incorporate live people at affordable prices. One recommendation is to start a three-credit Drama college course; the students enrolled in the course are patients for the simulations. It is a win-win for both students and creates a robust interprofessional experience. Avkin teaches ASPE standards of best practice, feedback techniques, and standardization.