Why be a simulated patient?

Interview with a simulated patient

We interviewed Karen, one of La Trobe Universities most seasoned SPs, about experiences in the SP program. This is what she had to say.

Would you recommend being a simulation patient (SP) to others?

Yes! I enjoy helping the students.

What attributes do you think that you need to be a good SP?

You need to be able to think on your feet and to not get distracted.  You need to be a good listener and have a good concentration span; it can be difficult to stay focussed with so much going on sometimes.

It helps if you are not self-conscious and don’t mind having some physical examinations performed. You need to put in the effort to learn the role and prepare for the session. You need flexible hours too.

Why do you enjoy being a SP?

When I started I knew that there would be acting involved but I probably didn’t really appreciate how much you need to become the character to make it realistic for the simulation. It’s a challenge to try to reproduce the role and then is rewarding when you see it work. The participants are always really grateful after a simulation; they thank me for the opportunity to participate and also for providing feedback.

I can see where they might be able to use the simulation later in their careers and that it will benefit patients. It is rewarding to watch the students as they progress through their course and develop professional maturity.

Your most memorable experience as a SP?

I played a mental health patient for an exam and the student was fully immersed in the simulation. A year later I met the student again in another simulation session and she thanked me because she had decided to follow a career in mental health as a result of the simulation experience because she had found it so powerful. It means a lot to me because it confirmed that I was making a difference.

Do you enjoy giving the students feedback?

I enjoy being included in the debrief, and I give a lot of thought to the feedback I provide. I stick to the main points that I think are important from the perspective of the patient.

Do you think the students see these sessions as valuable?

I know they do. I can see it in the simulation and in speaking to them afterwards. They are a bit shocked initially when they realise they are working with a real person, but then they get right in to it.

What do you find challenging about these sessions?

I’m always nervous the first time I play a role, but I try not to let it show. I am used to having an audience or being filmed now and forget it is happening.

The hardest part is the responsibility of getting it (the role) right so that the participants learn from the simulation.  There is a responsibility to give feedback the right way too so that it is constructive without offending the person.

Tell us a time when something didn’t go as planned?

Nothing jumps to mind, there is usually something in the scenario that wasn’t expected but we manage it. It is always difficult when a student doesn’t pass an assessment but that is part of being involved in education. 

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