Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Standardized Patient Program

Qualities of Penn Med SPs

The following are skills that we require of all of our SPs:

Reliability - If you agree to participate in a program, we expect you to be at all agreed upon trainings and performances on time.  If you leave us in the lurch, don’t show, or cancel on us after training, we will not use you again.  If you are consistently late for performances and/or trainings, we will not use you again.  Please carefully note scheduled times and dates in your calendars as soon as you agree to work with us on a project.

Memorization – We try our best to send you your training materials ahead of time.  This gives you the opportunity to read, memorize, and note any questions about the case before the training.  Each standardized patient must provide exactly the appropriate information in response to questions from examinees (hence the name standardized patient). There are certain bits of very specific case information that you will have to learn verbatim, as if you were learning a script; other times you will have to memorize general facts about the person you are portraying.

Simulation – Most cases require simulation of some sort.  Simulation could be emotional, such as having to cry or get angry, or physical, such as a pain in your stomach or having to flinch when a certain area is touched.  With that said, it is important for you to know that not all of our SPs are actors.  When we contact you to ask you to participate in a case, we will provide details as to what the case entails.  If a proposed case doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, tell us.  We will never hold that against you. The small group cases in particular require the most advanced acting skills.  Students can call “time out” or “time in” at any point in the interview.  They could call “time in” at the point just before you started crying, and you would have to be able to back up emotionally to that point in an instant.  If you can’t cry on cue, and the case calls for that, simply tell us and we’ll contact you for another case.

Recall – Many of our cases require SPs to fill out a checklist.  You will be asked to recall “did the student ask me…” a list of 10-25 questions at the end of each encounter.  You will be monitored for accuracy.  SPs who are consistently inaccurate will not be considered for casting in future cases that require checklists.

Feedback - Many of our cases provide verbal feedback to students, either one-on-one or in front of a small group of medical students and faculty.  We will train you to provide feedback in our approved format, and you will be expected to be able to provide details from the encounter to support your feedback.  For example, “You interrupted me several times and that made me feel unimportant.”  We expect our SPs always to act collegially toward students, never giving feedback in a scolding tone. 

Flexibility – Sometimes we must make last-minute changes to cases.  We ask you to be able to incorporate last-minute changes and ask any pertinent questions you need in order to understand and memorize the changes. 

Interpersonal skills - Our SP program includes actors, students, homemakers, retirees and other various professionals—in other words, people from all walks of life. Sensitivity to each other is expected. Some programs require large numbers of SPs, with briefing and debriefing taking place in small spaces.  Sometimes we have a large amount of information to digest in a short amount of time.  In training we often pair SPs up to practice with each other. It is important that you are able to get along well with all different kinds of people.

Professionalism – We consider all of our SPs to be professionals, and expect professional behavior.  Working in the medical school and in the clinics, we are privy to information about each other, the students, and sometimes real patients.  SPs are expected to protect the privacy of their peers, the students, and patients and to show respect to all others with whom we work closely, including the staff in the clinics and the medical faculty.