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Standardized Patient Program

Standardized Patients are individuals from the community who are trained to portray a patient with a specific medical condition.

DeSales Free Clinic

By interacting with Standardized Patients (SPs), our students gain experiential skills by taking patient histories, providing consultations, performing physical examinations and other clinical skills in our simulated clinical environment. SPs provide valuable feedback and can help to evaluate student performance.

Our SPs are specifically trained to portray each patient case and participate in student assessment to ensure the highest quality educational experience for our students. DeSales faculty receive detailed reports on student's performance based on the objectives of the encounter.

During the interaction, the SP may:

  • Undergo a physical examination
  • Realistically simulate the behavior of a patient or situation to include details of the history, personality, and abnormal physical findings
  • Document student performance using predefined checklists
  • Provide feedback to students on techniques of interviewing, physical examination techniques and/or communication skills

Interested in becoming a Standardized Patient?

We are always seeking qualified standardized patients for the Healthcare Simulation Center at DeSales University.  Apply now on

Not sure if this is for you? Please complete our inquiry form if you'd like us to contact you about this great opportunity.

Standardized Patient Job Description, Qualifications, and FAQs

  • Job Description

    Standardized patients (SP) give learners the opportunity to develop, practice and enhance their patient interviewing skills, communication skills, and physical exam techniques. SP activities include:

    Interviewing only

    Students will learn or be evaluated on communication skills, interpersonal skills, and history taking.  SPs will either “play” themselves or take on a patient role.  No physical examination will be involved.  Activities may be one-on-one with the student or in a small group setting.

    Physical Examination only

    Students will learn or be evaluated on physical examination skills.  SPs will be in a patient gown and students will perform the physical exam by touching the skin.  Training is required when there are particular elements of the physical exam that a SP must record and/or when there are symptoms that must be simulated.  No breast, pelvic or rectal exams are performed.

    History and Physical Examination

    Students will learn or be evaluated on their interpersonal skills and their ability to obtain a history and perform a physical examination that revolves around a specific medical complaint (cough, fatigue, etc.).  The students may spend 15 to 30 minutes at a time with the SP.  SPs are trained to a specific medical script and physical presentation. 

  • Duties and Responsibilities

    A Standardized Patient (SP) participates in the teaching and assessment of learners at DeSales University Healthcare Simulation Center.  The SP is trained to independently, consistently and accurately portray a specific case for which the learner will perform a brief interview and/or a focused physical examination.  An SP may also be trained to provide learners with constructive feedback regarding their performance.  SPs are assigned cases based on the demographics they can portray.

    A standardized patient:

    • Memorizes a case script detailing specific emotions, behaviors, and disease signs/symptoms for presentation during simulation learning situations.
    • Presents case information in a standardized manner, as elicited by students during simulated interactive patient history and/or medical examinations.
    • Remains in a specific patient character as trained when responding to student questions.
    • Accurately remembers encounters with students for the purpose of scoring student behaviors.
    • Participates in group training and/or mentorship of entry-level standardized patients.
    • Maintains confidentiality of information related to cases, student behaviors and feedback evaluations.
    • Provides educationally constructive verbal feedback within a structured format, as appropriate to the position.
    • Participates in self-assessment of own skills as a SP and active pursuit of ways to improve those skills (i.e. reviewing own videos, observing others).
    • Performs miscellaneous job-related duties as assigned. 

  • Do I need to know a lot about medicine?

    That is difficult to say right now.  This is a developing program at DeSales and while it may expand in the future, there will always be a limited amount of work; this should not be considered steady work for SPs.  We maintain a roster of people we can draw upon as needed.  We would match you as closely as possible with the patient you are going to portray and then match schedule needs to SP availability.  Initially you might work only a very few hours over the course of months, or not work at all for some time.  

    Please note that once you agree to work on a particular day it is absolutely essential that you meet that work commitment, just as you would with any job.  

    Training sessions for SPs are more flexible.  We will try to accommodate your schedule for training.  Please note that training is mandatory; you cannot work unless you attend training.  

  • Do the learners know we are not real patients?

  • This sounds like acting—Do I have to be an actor?

    No. Some SPs are professional trained in acting techniques but most are not. You can be a successful SP without having been on stage or in a movie. There are some similarities to what actors do, but there are differences too.
  • How do I know what to say and do when the learn interviews and examines me?

    SPs are trained to portray each patient case.  A complete history is provided to you that includes the patient’s complaint for which they come to see the doctor, the past medical history, and details about their life such as their job, family and activities. 

    We also describe the emotional state they are in when they see the doctor.  By learning this history you can learn to simulate that person, and speak to the doctor (learner) just as the patient would. 

    We will also show you how to move like that patient, and how to react to the physical examination.  For example, you may be portraying someone with a bad back. 

    We will show you where it hurts and what the patient could or could do because of the back problem.  If you are supposed to portray someone with a pain in the abdomen you would be shown how to react when it is pressed in certain places.

  • How much does the job pay?

    We are currently paying $17.00 per hour for both the training and the learner sessions.  No benefits are paid.
  • I am an actor—This should be easy for me and good experience too, right?

    Perhaps. But you may find it much more difficult than working from a script or within dramatic improvisational outlines, and you may find it very frustrating.

    This work has nothing to do with finding dramatic moments or playing to an audience. This work involves disciplining yourself within the needs of the case and the teaching of the learner. It can be very repetitive, as exactly the same patient must be presented for every learner.  

    This work is confidential and you will not be permitted to use the material in any public or private performance.

  • I'm still interested—What do I do next?

    Complete the online application form on this page.

    Someone from the Healthcare Simulation Center will contact you soon and invite to you attend a required SP Information Session at DeSales University. 

  • I’ve been a SP for other organizations—Would I be able to work for DeSales?

  • I’ve had a few health problems—Can I still be a SP?

    Probably, if you are suitable in every other way.  If your personal health problems prevent you from participating in a particular case, then we will explore other cases.  Remember this work is not about your health.
  • Is it safe?

    Yes.  The examinations are very basic and do not cause any harm to the SP.
  • What experience do I need to become a SP?

    SPs generally have an interest in education and/or personal health and come from all walks of life and professional experiences. SPs have excellent communication skills, and are patient with those who are learning new skills. They are also flexible and able to participate in exams and exercises that take place during varying times of day.
  • What is a typical work day or work week?

    There is no standard; it depends on the nature of the particular patient case.  Some sessions consist of a few hours for a few mornings within a single week.  Others will involve more afternoons; still others may involve full days, 4 or 5 days a week for one week or several.  Learner sessions with SPs can take place during the week day or on the weekend.
  • What types of people do you need?

    Just as there are all kinds of real patients we would like to have a corps of SPs representing men and women of all ages and physical types.  You must be 18 or older to be a SP. 

    This work requires energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communication skills and a high level of comfort with your own health and body in dealing with the healthcare professions.  It requires intense concentration while you are being interviewed and examined. 

    You must be able to maintain not only the patient’s character but also simulate their physical condition during the entire examination.  After the encounter is over you must be able to remember what the learner did and then record it on a checklist.  You will be required to do this many times in succession without any changes. 

  • What types of physical examination are involved?

    Learners will examine you as if you are one of their patients during a routine doctor visit.  For example, they may: listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope; press on your abdomen looking for tenderness or swelling; look into your eye, ears and throat; take your blood pressure; assess your muscle strength; check your reflexes; check your pulses, etc.

    None of the examinations involve taking any blood or other invasive procedures; no needles are used.

  • Why do you need SPs? I thought healthcare professions students learned with real patients in the hospital or clinic?

    In some cases it’s best for students to learn skills and techniques before they meet real patients.  For example, we can have one SP be seen by a number of students and behave each time as though it were the first time they have come to see a doctor for their problem. 

    This is not intended to replace the experience they will need with real patients, but rather to add to their training. 

    Using SPs allow learners to practice before they work with real patients, in a controlled, risk-free environment.  It allows the learners to learn from their mistakes without doing harm to real patients.

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