Friday, June 16, 2006

Standardized Patients

I just got through a monster afternoon dealing with a seemingly non-stop series of standardized patients -- actors trained to behave as patients and then interact with us as we practice various clinical skills (e.g. bedside manner, clinical reasoning, ability to take a good history and physical exam, etc.) Being required to make special efforts to teach their students good clinical skills, most medical schools now incorporate standardized patients into their curriculum.

But having performed dozens of encounters with standardized patients during the past few years, including today's exam that consisted of 8 back-to-back standardized patient encounters, I am officially sick of them.

It takes a lot of energy walking into each room putting on an extra fat grin, being extra verbose as you talk to the patient, and then remembering to perform every aspect of the physical exam (especially the ones you don't normally perform) on these people who are obviously tired. Furthermore, I treat them differently that I do my real patients, as I'm sure most people do. I seriously doubt there are students who take the time to inspect, palpate, percuss, and only then auscultate.

Although I'm sure the feeling is reciprocal. It must be hard putting on the same act 16 times a day for an entire month, complaining over and over to a new student how suddenly this morning they started having abdominal pain ... or how their poop has been discolored for awhile.

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