Standardized patients are trained actors who
portray patients during an interview and physical examination with a medical
student or doctor in training. As part of medical education, medical schools
now often use standardized patients to depict realistic patient interactions
and presentations of disease. These standardized patients discuss their symptoms
with the student. The medical student in turn conducts a patient interview
and then may perform a physical examination. Through these interviews, medical
students learn how to communicate with patients in a situation that does not
require the use of actual patients. The September 7, 2005, issue of JAMA is
a theme issue devoted to articles about medical education.
Standardized patient interviews are one of several methods for teaching
clinical skills and measuring the abilities of medical students and doctors
in training. These simulated interactions help students identify the symptoms (subjective patient experiences) and signs (objective abnormalities) of a particular disease. The student
is able to improve his or her physical examination skills in order to aid
in making an accurate diagnosis. In addition, standardized patients come from
diverse backgrounds and expose students to important cultural issues. Thus,
the medical student can learn how to identify and understand the physical,
emotional, social, and cultural impact of illness.
Standardized patients are often trained to measure the interviewing
and examining skills of the student with whom they interact. In addition,
experienced instructors may observe the standardized patient interview and
physical examination to evaluate clinical skills and recommend improvements.
To become a licensed physician in the United States, medical students are
now required to pass a clinical skills assessment with standardized patients
as part of their medical licensing examinations.
In addition to live actors, computerized mannequins can also be used
to model patients. Using high-tech devices, life-sized patient mannequins simulate the human body and allow students to listen
to breath and heart sounds, feel pulses, measure vital signs, and much more.
Students can perform medical interventions such as intubation (insertion of a breathing tube into the airway), medication injections,
and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (a procedure to restore breathing and circulation). These techniques
help students learn to respond quickly and accurately to acute illness situations
before they encounter them in real patients. Mannequins also allow students
to practice medical procedures before attempting them on patients.
Association of American Medical Collegeshttp://www.aamc.org
National Board of Medical Examinershttp://www.nbme.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page on medical education was published in the September 6, 2000, issue; one on continuing medical education was published in the September 4, 2002, issue; one on medical specialties was published in the September 3, 2003, issue; and one on academic health centers was published in the September 1, 2004, issue.
Sources: Association of American Medical Colleges, National Board of
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
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TOPIC: MEDICAL EDUCATION
Brender E, Burke A, Glass RM. Standardized Patients. JAMA. 2005;294(9):1172. doi:10.1001/jama.294.9.1172