Standardized Patient Program

What is the Standardized Patient Program?

Standardized patients (SP) were introduced in medical schools in the early 1960s. By the 1980s, many schools had developed standardized patient programs as part of the curriculum for medical students. The Department of Family Medicine, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, first established its SP Program in 1982.

In 1997, the program became housed in the Office of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education. The SP Program fosters an environment where medical students can learn to communicate effectively with patients. Students practice interviewing, problem solving, and diagnosing various health problems. SP’s also provide a tool for assessing the clinical skills of medical students as well as practitioners.


How do standardized patients help students in the health sciences?

Standardized patients provide students an opportunity to learn without risk to actual patients. During a simulation, a medical student interviews an SP while one faculty member and a small group of medical students observe. The patient then offers feedback that helps students become caring physicians. In an examination, SPs are asked to assess the clinical and interpersonal skills of medical students and practitioners.


What do standardized patients do?

SPs are trained to portray the symptoms, personality, and life situation of actual patients. For different patient cases, our program needs children (10 years and older), high school, college students, and men and women of all ages. Acting experience is not necessary.


How much time is involved?

At least two training sessions occur before the final class performance (there may be as many as five trainings for a high stakes exam). These trainings may be spread out over several weeks and the exam may take place over a one or two week span. The physician and trainer conduct the first two- to three-hour training session a few days before the class meets. A second session takes place on the day of the class. The session and class last about two hours.


Why should I become a standardized patient?

As an SP, you will be directly involved in the medical education of future physicians. You will have the opportunity to work with people in the community who may share similar interests, and will also receive pay for the time you spend in training sessions, in classes, or exams.


How may I learn more about this SP program?

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Standardized Patient, please call the Office of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education at 252-744-3054.