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Houston, Texas

Anatomy instruction at Baylor College of Medicine
Department of Family and Community Medicine
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Medical Student Education - Standardized Patient Program

The Standardized Patient Program utilizes trained standardized patients (SPs) to teach and evaluate clinical skills in medical schools, workshops and seminars. Recently, there has been a concerted effort towards utilizing standardized patients in nationwide, high-stakes examinations for certification and licensure.

What is a Standardized Patient?

Standardized Patients (SPs) are people recruited from the general populous who are interested in contributing to the education of medical students. SPs participate in a variety of projects at Baylor College of Medicine, which include Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) for the Patient, Physician and Society Course (PPS) and Clinical Performance Examinations (CPX) for the Family and Community Medicine Clerkship.

Why use a Standardized Patient instead of a "real" patient?

There are many benefits to utilizing Standardized Patients in medical education.

  • Control: It is difficult to control a student's interaction with a real patient and even more difficult to test the student in such a setting. With the help of Standardized Patients, one can test the student's clinical skills in a realistic setting, targeting specific tasks such as physical examination, history taking, patient education and management negotiation.
  • Standardization: In a testing situation, a Standardized Patient can present the same problem for every student, creating a situation that can be objectively evaluated.
  • Transition: Standardized Patients can provide a transition for students early in their medical education from the classroom to the real patient and the clinical setting.
  • Availability: Standardized Patients are many times more willing to participate in medical education projects, are often times available more than real patients, and may perform in a variety of settings (i.e., clinical setting, classroom, conference room) with little or no discomfort or stress.
  • Understanding: Standardized Patients are prepared for students to perform inadequately or in a nervous manner. Students can work with a Standardized Patient without being embarrassed or concerned about their novice status.
  • Research: Results from Standardized Patient/student encounters can be used to evaluate teaching methods as well as contribute to other research projects.

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