What Is A Standardized Participant?

Robert Jennetten
Director of Innovation Partnerships

November 7, 2014

The Story of Being a Standardized Participant

Simulated patient with faux trauma injuriesStandardized Participants (SPs), sometimes referred to as Standardized Patients, are an invaluable resource available for simulations at Jump. A Standardized Participant is a person who has been highly trained to portray all of the characteristics of a real patient, a patient's loved one, or a member of the care team, in order to provide an opportunity for students to learn, or be evaluated on clinical encounters first hand.

When it is decided that a simulation is the best option for an educational course, the first question that is often asked is whether a manikin or Standardized Participant should be used.

While manikins are great for practicing procedures that are invasive or would be harmful to an actual person (such as chest compressions during a code blue), Standardized Participants bring a human element to simulations.

Being a Standardized Participant is not an easy task, as they must be able to memorize a lot of information and recall that information in a very fluid environment. This information includes the patient's current symptoms, their medical, social, and family history, as well as the emotional responses required for the case.

They also have to be able to portray the symptoms and different degrees of affect that are necessary for the case. They need to be able to improvise and think on their feet, but they are not allowed to make things up, or else the learner might be thrown off course with false information.

Furthering Learners' Education

Standardized Participants come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have experiences in acting or medicine, while others have only their personal experiences as patients. One requirement for all SPs is an interest in providing outstanding educational experiences for all learners they encounter.

After speaking with three of the Standardized Participants at Jump, it's clear they enjoy their roles as educators. It is very easy for them to tell how much experience a learner has. Second year medical students (M2s) are a lot more nervous and have a lot of material available to them right in the room, while M4s are a lot more confident, and are expected to recall more information from memory.

Standardized Participants are experienced in participating in roles for a variety of learners including medical students, residents, faculty physicians, nursing students, Registered Nurses, and pre-hospital personnel. Each learner group brings a different perspective, level of experience, and set of challenges to the SPs.

Lost In The Act

It is easy for the learners to forget that the Standardized Participants are actors. Each role an SP plays is a real person, and they put a lot of effort into being that real, unique person. Making small talk is one way to fully immerse the learner into the situation. One Standardized Participant tells of a time when they played the role of a skeptical administrator.

The students had to present a project to her and try to convince her to back their project. When she gave feedback to them out of character during debriefing, they were surprised at how different she was from the character.

The Standardized Participants understand it is much more intimidating for clinicians-in-training to talk with and provide care to a stranger. But that is precisely why their work is important – it's good to practice these skills in a safe learning environment. It is okay to make mistakes, and this environment allows learners to become comfortable interacting with patients before they go into the real world of patient care.

Featured Author

Robert Jennetten
Former Director of Usability Services


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