Standardized Patients

Standardized Patients support medical student learning as well as highly structured examination sessions. Standardized Patients are healthy individuals trained to portray the personal history, physical symptoms, emotional characteristics and everyday concerns of a case patient.

Standardized Patients are comparable to real patients, but can be better suited for teaching and student assessments. Symptom presentations can remain stable and standardized and the levels of difficulty can tailored to the level of learner. Standardized Patients carry lower risk as we avoid causing inconvenience or discomfort to real patients with real concerns. Finally, multiple Standardized Patients portray the same case in a standardized way, allowing a large volume of learners to have the same experience and individual and fair assessments.

Teaching: Standardized Patients help students master the communication skills necessary for successful patient assessment, interaction and treatment. They perform their role in front of a group of four students and a physician. The SMP typically runs these sessions during the week.

Evaluation: Standardized Patients support the Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCE) for students. They perform their role in a room with one student at a time and a physician assessing the student performance. They may repeat their role up to thirty-two times in eight to twelve minute segments. The SMP typically administers exams on evenings and weekends.

Standardization ensures that all portrayals of patient cases unfold as identically as possible. Standardized Patients give responses and portray symptoms consistently amongst their peers as well as from one student encounter to the next. Responses must consistently represent content and volume of information provide to students. Standardized Patients receive training to respond to unexpected questions in a standardized way. This allows us to provide a fair and standardized learning or assessment experience.

The types of cases vary significantly based on the portrayal of symptoms and background history.

In cases involving a history taking, Standardized Patients will memorize all the relevant background medical history of the patient case. These can vary from a headache, to abdominal pain, to chest pain. In some instances, Standardized Patients will portray physical symptoms during the history taking (i.e. coughing).

Other patient cases will test the student’s skills conducting a physical examination. The student examines Standardized Patient who portray the physical findings of the patient case during the examination.

Depending on availability and patient case requirements, Standardized Patients can work on as many projects as they like. Essential characteristics of the patient case including factors such as age, gender, and appearance. Every simulation includes at least one paid training period approximately two weeks before the teaching or examination session.

A Standardized Patient must be committed and comfortable with role playing. They must maintain a non-judgemental approach and exercise compassion for their patient portrayal in addition to the students and physicians interviewing them. They should also have a good memory, strong attention to detail, respond to direction, and communicate effectively in English.

Despite our best training efforts, Standardized Patients may need to respond to unexpected questions. They apply general training principles to provide benign answers. They must also be comfortable with physical examinations. Some of our patient cases involve non-invasive physical exams. Standardized Patient may need to wear a patient gown for exams by students and physicians in front of a small group.

The SMP welcomes healthy individuals between the ages of 16 and 80 to apply. Unfortunately, individuals with serious or multiple medical conditions cannot participate nor can pre-med or medical students.

Standardized Patients train to play a role. While Volunteer Patients volunteer to participate as themselves.

A background or interest in acting is an asset, but not required. Some patient cases require the use of actors, but the majority are simple and straightforward enough for non-actors to portray.

The work has nothing to do with finding dramatic moments or playing to an audience. It has everything to do with disciplining yourself within the needs of the case and the exam. It may be appropriate for you to appear anxious, irritable, or confused during an interview if that is part of the training scenario. It is important to portray the case exactly the same way for every student who interviews you.

Standardized Patients earn $22-27 per hour for training and simulations. There is a four-hour minimum for each simulation and a two-hour minimum for training.

Yes. Although some teaching sessions run during weekdays, most assessments take place on the weekend or evenings. You have the option to decline a request that does not fit your schedule.

How can I apply?

Any other questions, please contact Patient Programs at or 250.980.1329.

Apply online