We provide the standardized patient with a "script" that details all of the information they will need to realistically portray an actual patient. Often, the script is accompanied by the patient chart. The script provides such information as the patient’s chief complaint and the sequence of events of the illness. The chart provides the patient's lab/test results and medication record. Standardized patients must become completely familiar with this information. The time it takes to learn the material varies among SPs, but as they gain experience, they need less time to review.
Scripts are developed from cases. Each case illustrates a particular problem or issue such as:
- Physical Complaint
- Prevention and/or Patient Education
- Chronic Illness
- Psychosocial Problems
- Sexual Concerns
- A Combination of Problems
Those comfortable portraying cases that include a physical exam receive written physical examination materials to familiarize them with the type of examination and the sequence of procedures performed. Then, a certified professional will teach SPs the examination procedures. Standardized patients must become completely familiar with the procedures to properly evaluate the students. Standardized patients evaluate students by completing evaluation forms, which are essentially checklists of skills.
Studies show that some feedback techniques are more helpful than others. To make sure students receive helpful, accurate responses to their history and/or physical exam skills, we train Standardized Patients in a particular method of giving feedback. The feedback sessions are generally incorporated into the specific case training sessions.
SPs also receive feedback on their performance. The feedback may occur during a project when the trainer or a faculty member asks the SP to modify certain behaviors, or the trainer may give the SP written feedback after viewing a videotape of the encounter. In addition, students are often asked to evaluate how realistically the SP portrayed the case and the usefulness of the SP's feedback. SPs are asked to consider all forms of the feedback as additional training to improve their skills.
Sometimes, SPs are asked to attend special checklist reliability sessions. These training sessions are designed to verify that SPs are interpreting grading criteria in the same way. A group of SPs are asked to watch a videotape of an encounter and fill out a checklist. If they are reliable graders, they will all fill out the checklist in the same way. Discrepancies in checklist answers indicate the areas where additional training is needed.