Medical School trains simulated patients for students’ practice

Liz Kohman

University sophomore Kareem Ezzat wants to become a doctor one day but until he can apply for medical school, he is just going to help train other students.

Ezzat, along with 49 other participants, attended a two-hour workshop for second-year medical students on how to be the ideal patient.

During their second year of medical school, students begin to practice on patients as part of their clinical medicine class. They start with the easy stuff – taking a patient’s history and giving a full exam.

In the past, medical students depended on hospitalized patients for practice. But for the last two years, the Medical School has trained not only potential physicians but pretend patients as well.

Those in attendance at the workshop – including actors, retirees and pre-med students – will act like patients, giving the students their medical histories and cooperating with physical examinations.

Although students still practice on real patients in the hospital, the majority of students also use simulated patients to gain experience.

“The students love it,” said Ilene Harris, co-director of the program. “It sets them off on the right foot.”

The simulated patient program gives students the opportunity to interact with mobile patients who are trained to give them feedback as they learn, Harris said.

Simulated patients allow the students to practice with less pressure. They perform the history and exam as if the patient were real but get feedback and support normal patients couldn’t provide.

In addition to the medical aspects and write-up of the exam, students are graded on how well they relate to and interact with patients.

Ginger King, a retired teacher entering her second year with the program, said she volunteers because she enjoys working with the students.

Other simulated patients commented on the fun of seeing the students’ skills improve each week.

The program includes two different types of patients. One type gives their own medical history, or a slightly different version, and are paid $10 per hour.

The other patients give a scripted medical history and are paid $15 per hour. Because these patients have a standardized history, they make it easier for instructors to assess students’ progress.

Jim LaBonte, entering his third year of involvement with the program, has had numerous medical problems and said he participates in the program to help doctors.

“It’s my way of giving back to the medical community,” he said.

Liz Kohman covers the student health
and welcomes comments at [email protected]