Standardized Patient Program

The Win-Win of Patient Partnership

As participants in the Standardized Patient Program, people from the community have the opportunity to use their own experience and skills to help promote safe, effective care and patient empowerment in healthcare practice. The value of participation in these educational projects has a very personal element as well: standardized patients become better patients in their own lives.  

Interested in participating in the Standardized Patient Program? 

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Engaging patients and communities in health sciences education to improve healthcare

A Brief Introduction to Standardized Patients

The Standardized Patient (SP) Program serves an essential role in bringing the patient perspective to the forefront of health sciences education. Standardized patients are individuals from the community who are coached to accurately and consistently recreate the history, personality, physical findings, and emotional state of an actual patient. As vital members of the education team, standardized patients are compensated on an hourly basis for their participation.

Since the first standardized patient was trained by Dr. Howard Barrows in 1963 to portray a patient for a neurology exam at the University of Southern California, a rigorous body of research on the use of standardized patients has been built, solidly establishing the effectiveness of the methodology. Standardized patients are now an integral part of health sciences education, and our staff members contribute nationally and internationally to scholarship in the field through collaboration and leadership. Staff members are actively engaged in our two main professional associations: the Association of Standardized Patient Educators (ASPE) and the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH).

Standardized Patients at the University of Minnesota

Established in 1999, the Standardized Patient Program at the University of Minnesota has grown to provide thousands of hours of educational contact yearly with students and residents across the health sciences, practicing professionals in the local healthcare community, and non-healthcare professional programs at the University. Additionally, our innovative work using standardized patient methodology includes integrating clients into uniprofessional and interprofessional simulations with the School of Social Work, supporting the integration of a skills-based curriculum using standardized clients in the Law School, and developing roles as clients for learners in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Our simulation team works with our patient partners through the SP Program to address specific curricular needs of our clients. Our work has expanded the role of standardized patients to maximize their contributions to health sciences education, to include:

  • Sharing personal experiences of their own health and healthcare journeys
  • Portraying scripted patient stories
  • Portraying family members and other individuals to reflect diverse clinical challenges
  • Providing feedback about learners’ interpersonal skills and cultural competence
  • Using standardized checklists to evaluate learner performance
  • Facilitating physical exam instruction using their own bodies
  • Facilitating small group learning
  • Integrating adolescents into simulation to heighten authenticity and support their academic enrichment

Together, we work to leverage the diversity of the patient experience to develop culturally sensitive providers prepared to meet the healthcare needs of our communities.