Interested in Becoming a Standardized Patient?
Q Is this like being a research subject?
No. Most people think of medical research subjects as people who are taking drugs or are in certain behaviour studies and have their reactions documented and analyzed. Being an SP is very different. You will not being taking any medication, receiving any shots or be asked to change your current lifestyle. We are training you to portray a patient case in order to teach and assess the medical student or other health-care professionals.
Q Do the learners know we aren’t real patients?
Most of the time. We aren’t trying to deceive anyone and Learners know that they are going to be working with standardized patients throughout the curriculum. They are told to behave just as they would with real patients in doing their interviews and physical examinations.
However, for some clients we do offer Stealth Patient assessments. Standardized Patients are chosen from our more experienced list and trained for the client’s objectives as Stealth Patients. Sometimes they go to a clinic in the community to document how they are treated by the office staff before and after the visit.The learners are told they have seen a stealth patient sometime after the encounter.
Q How do I know what to say?
We provide all historical and physical case details and train you to realistically portray the patient.
Q What types of physical examinations would be done?
They would be very common examinations like you would have in your doctor’s office if you were a real patient. For example, learners may:
- listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope
- press on your abdomen looking for tenderness or swelling
- look into your eyes, ears and throat
- take your blood pressure, etc.
Q Will I need to take my clothes off?
All standardized patients are assigned hospital gowns so when meeting with the learners the physical examination can be performed. You keep your underwear on underneath. Women may be asked to remove their bras and would be expected to do so as if they were a real patient. Genital and rectal examinations are not permitted so there is no reason for total nudity.
Q Do I have to decide whether the learner passes the test or not?
No. It would not be fair to expect someone without medical training to determine whether the learner passes or fails, and it would not be fair to the learners either. Part of the Standardized Patient’s job is to document the performance of the learners on a checklist for the purpose of scoring, but the scores are analyzed by a software analysis program. You will also be trained to give verbal and written feedback on communication skills.
Q I’ve had a couple of health problems in the past. Can I still be a Standardized Patient?
Probably you can be, if you are suitable in every other way. Everyone has some sort of medical history. We are always looking for a variety of ages, body types and diverse ethnicity in our Standardized Patients. We want you just the way you are. Our health-care professionals need the experience of working with a variety of different people with different backgrounds. Standardized patients do not have to be in perfect health, but they do have to be physically and mentally fit to fulfill the requirements of the position.
Q Do I need to know a lot about medicine?
No, we will teach you what you need to know. We prefer people who have not had medical training because it can confuse the situation.
Q Will I be working only with medical students?
No, we have an extensive list of clients. That’s why we call them learners. You might work with medical students, residents, physical therapy students, nurse practitioners or nursing students, all in the same week. We also have some non-medical related clients.
Q How much does the job pay?
We pay per hour for training and working time. No benefits are included and there are the usual state and federal withholdings. There are opportunities for salary advancement within the program.
Q How often do I work?
Being a Standardized Patient or Teaching Associate is a contracted, hourly position. You choose the amount of hours you would like to work based on availability and client needs.
Q How will I know when you need me to work?
We contact you via email regarding the available date(s) to work (for all SPs, PTAs or GTAs).
Q I think I could do this job; it sounds easy enough.
This job is NOT easy and it is NOT for everybody. It requires intense concentration while you are being interviewed and examined. You must be able to respond exactly as the real patient would and only as that patient. You must be able to maintain not only the patient’s character but also simulate their physical condition during an entire encounter (15-60 minutes). After the encounter is over you must be able to remember what the learner did and then record it on a checklist. You will also provide written and verbal feedback directly to the learner after the encounter. And you have to be able to do it many times in succession without any changes. The job takes energy, memorization, discipline, concentration, excellent communications skills and a high level of comfort with your own health and body in dealing with the medical profession. Being a Standardized Patient is hard work.
Q I’m really interested! What do I do next?
Complete the application form and send it to the address provided. If you wish, attach a cover letter and/or a resume. Depending on our currently available positions, we will call you and arrange for an interview. If accepted to the program, you will be hired as an EVMS hourly employee. You will have to complete a W-4 form for taxes purposes and an I-9 form to show that you are legally able to work in the U.S. You will schedule an EVMS employment physical, including a drug and PPD test.
You will also be required to sign an agreement of confidentiality, and a release and consent form stating that you understand the nature of the work and agree to it. We will then schedule training sessions in consultation with you. Even if we do not use you right away, we would like to keep your application on file for future needs. There will be a lot more work available in the future.