Nursing students in a simulation.

The standardized patient hall utilizes trained laypeople and actors to roleplay a variety of healthcare scenarios with medical students, residents, nursing students, and nurse practitioners. This allows learners to directly experience the process of differential diagnosis and to practice their communication and professionalism skills. Each one of the twelve rooms is equipped with two “Pan-Tilt- Zoom” cameras, as well as microphones and speakers. This A/V system is run through KB Port software, managed by three control stations. At the end of each scenario, learners exit the room and input their results into a computer terminal, while standardized patients report on the learner’s communication skills and overall professional behavior. The standardized patient program and labs are coordinated by Rocky Rockstraw.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a standardized patient?

A simulated/standardized patient (SP) is a person who has been coached to accurately and consistently recreate the history, personality, physical findings, and emotional structure and response pattern of an actual patient at a particular point in time. The CSCLV employs standardized patients in the training and evaluation of health care professionals including KSOM students and residents, UNLV nurse practitioners, and NSC nursing students. As a standardized patient, you will be interviewed and examined, just as you would by your family doctor, by male and female healthcare students. In the patient role, you may see several (4-12) students on a one-to-one basis during an evaluation session or there may be a group of students working with you in a controlled teaching session. The standardized patient will not vary from student to student. The SP is a person who has been carefully coached to simulate an actual patient so accurately the simulation cannot be detected by a skilled clinician. In performing the simulation, the SP presents the “gestalt” of the patient being simulated; not just the history, but the body language, the physical findings, and the emotions and personality as well.

How will I know what to say when the students interview me?

You will be given a “patient case” or script detailing the current medical problem, past medical history, family and social situation, and emotional state you will need to portray. You will learn to appear as the patient by using specific body language, movement, and responses to physical examination. You will also be trained to look for specific student responses and skills, to record them, and to give feedback to the student on their performance.

Will the students know we aren’t real patients?

All students are aware that they are seeing SPs, and are asked to perform histories and physical examinations just as they would with real patients.

Will I have to grade the student?

No. You will be asked to complete a checklist as a record of the encounter, but you will not be asked to subjectively rate clinical skills. You will, most likely, be asked to rate (give your opinion) on the communication skills of the student. We often ask SPs to provide both positive and constructive feedback to the students based on their performance.

What type of physical examination will be done?

Students will perform focused physical examinations based on the patient case. These examinations may include: listening to heart and lungs with a stethoscope; pressing on your abdomen, neck, face, and limbs to assess tenderness; using a scope to look in your ears, eyes, nose and throat; taking your pulse and blood pressure; checking muscle strength, reflexes, range of motion, and gait. Invasive procedures (blood draw, X-ray, throat cultures) will not be performed.

Will I have to remove my clothing?

SPs are generally required to wear hospital gowns during the sessions. You will always wear underclothing under the gowns.

Will I need to know a lot about medicine?

No. Your patient case will contain all the information you need for portrayal and feedback.

Is my previous health history important?

It might be. Each patient is matched with a case – an SP who has had an appendectomy could not portray a patient with appendicitis. However, a surgical scar might not matter in a case about a headache, or wrist pain. Your answers on the medical database questionnaire will help match you to appropriate patient cases.

How are standardized patients selected?

As an SP, you will use a wide range of skills. You will need to role-play and work with a varied group of people. It is important that you are comfortable with your body and letting others touch and examine you. Strong written and verbal communication skills are required. Punctuality, reliability, flexibility, and commitment to scheduled dates are imperative.

Do I need to be an actor?

No. Although many actors work as SPs. The focus is on providing the student with an educational opportunity, not on performance or dramatic interpretation. Playing a patient case is extremely repetitive, as exactly the same simulation must be done for every student encounter in a specific session. However, many actors and non-actors find this work rewarding. You will contribute to the education of future healthcare providers, and many students are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with SPs and receive feedback on their skills. SPs often become more comfortable with their own medical issues while working in the program.

How often would I work?

The work is temporary, part-time, and seasonal. SP sessions are scheduled according to student needs and program requirements. SPs who perform satisfactorily are given first preference for future work, depending on need and case requirements.

What else should I know about being a standardized patient?

This job is not easy and it is not for everybody. It requires intense concentration while being interviewed and examined. You must be able to respond exactly as the real patient would. You must be able to maintain not only the patient’s character but also simulate their physical condition during an encounter. When the encounter is over you must recall the student’s performance and record it on a checklist. You may also be required to provide verbal feedback directly to the student. You will repeat these tasks many times in succession without change. Being an SP takes energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communication skills and a high level of comfort with your own health.

What are the advantages of standardized patients?

  • Validity – SPs are carefully trained to simulate actual patients with specific medical conditions
  • Availability – SPs are available any time, any place
  • Reliability – SP roles are standardized and repeatable
  • Controllability – the situation, setting and level of difficulty are flexible and controllable
  • Adaptability – no time restrictions, scenarios can be altered as needed for demonstration
  • No risk – no discomfort or inconvenience to actual patients
  • Feedback – immediate and constructive, participants benefit from hearing the patient’s perspective

How do standardized patients enhance healthcare education?

  • Demonstration and instruction
  • Practice and experience
  • Evaluation and assessment

I’m interested in becoming a standardized patient. What should I do next?

  • Complete the Standardized Patient Confidential Data Form
  • Sign the Application Information Statement
  • Attach a reference page containing three professional references
  • Attach a clear photo of yourself (preferably a head shot)
  • Then, submit the completed and signed forms as well as the attachments via fax to 702-774-2152 or by U.S. mail to:
    • Timothy Cummings
      Standardized Patient Program Specialist
      Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas
      1001, Shadow Lane, Building B
      Las Vegas, NV, 89106-7405