How to improve your feedback skills as a simulated patient

When giving feedback to participants it is important that the feedback is calibrated. This ensures that you are using a consistent method to ‘rate’ your experience.

In general, only use excellent if you are so impressed with the student’s performance that if you were a real patient you would have written a letter to their supervisor. Likewise, for a poor performance, it needs to be negative enough that you would have written a letter to their supervisor.

An average performance meets your expectations of care and you would return to that practitioner for future care, a below-average performance means that you wouldn’t return for future care to that practitioner, and a good performance exceeds your expectations of care and you would probably recommend that practitioner to a friend or family member.

Non-verbal communication

The key strength of using SPs is that they can give valuable feedback about communication, both verbal and non-verbal. When giving feedback, think about not only the way the participants spoke to you but also about their non-verbal communication, including eye contact, facial expression and body language.

Touch is an important aspect of non-verbal communication that is often overlooked. When touch is too heavy it can make the student seem disinterested or uncaring. When it is too light it can make the student seem nervous or lacking in confidence.

Touch can make a patient feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Students leaning over a patient or against a patient may be pressing their breasts, groin or buttocks against the patient without realising. For some patients, this can make them feel very uncomfortable.

Touch is a great way for students to “fake it until they make it”. Purposeful contact that is not too gentle or not too firm can communicate to the patient that the student knows what they are doing and can do it well. It can make the patient more likely to trust the student and feel reassured about their care.

If you have had a student that has done a really great job and you are trying to think of feedback about an area they can improve on, think about their non-verbal communication with you. Likewise, if you have had a student that has struggled in the scenario, touch might be a positive aspect of their performance that you can comment on for that student.