Tips for Standardized Patient Encounters
Standardized patient interviews are an important aspect of your medical training.
A standardized patient (or SP) is trained to simulate real patients with a variety of illnesses. During medical school, these interactions are used to measure your ability to apply your knowledge clinically as well as your communication skills.
Take Everyone Seriously
Even though you know the standardized patient is an actor playing out a made-up scenario, treat them the way you would an actual patient. The goal of these encounters is to help you provide better patient care in the real world. These individuals are trying to make you the best medical professional you can be, so respect their effort!
Trust Your “Patient”
Standardized patients often work on case scenarios for hours or even days at a time. They are responsible for creating a backstory and practicing the manner in which they will answer questions. Do not view this as an attempt to trap you or make you squirm, but rather as an effort to help you structure questions better and boost your critical thinking skills.
Ask Specific Questions
The faculty at your training program or medical college want you to ask questions a certain way. As a result, your SP will often give vague answers when you ask general questions. Practice phrasing questions in a more specific manner before and during interviews. This will help you get through assessments faster and more efficiently.
Make Them Comfortable
Even if standardized patients are used to physical examinations, practice putting them at ease. This will be helpful when you encounter real patients who may be embarrassed or uncomfortable. Ask them for permission if you need to move or lower their clothing, be gentle while performing examinations, and display kindness throughout the process.
Build a Connection
Patience, empathy and the ability to connect with people are crucial for successful patient encounters. To interact with standardized patients more effectively, try to relax and be yourself. This encourages the SP to open up and engage with you on a personal level during interviews, which leads to a more rewarding experience.
Keep Your Cool
From time to time, SPs will test your ability to deal with difficult patients. For instance, they might act ‘scatter-brained’, suspicious or even antagonistic, making you feel stressed, anxious or confused. Learning not to react, keep your emotions under control, and being assertive rather than aggressive will go a long way!
Summarize the Encounter
You may have heard that repeating a patient’s answers to your questions shows that you’re being attentive. However, you generally have very limited time for clinical interviews and it may not always be practical to do this. Instead, try wrapping up the interview with a quick verbal summary of everything discussed during it.
Enjoy the Experience
While you shouldn’t think of standardized patient interviews as role-playing games that offer a break from studying, it is important to enjoy them. These exercises give you the chance to try new things in a safe and controlled setting, and it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake, especially if you learn from each one.
Interacting with SPs prepares you for actual patient encounters throughout your career. Even after you complete medical school rotations and start practicing, they can help you improve your connection with patients and provide better patient care. Treat them as a chance to keep improving, learning and moving ahead!
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