Review of "The Simulated Patient Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide for Facilitators and Simulated Patient", by Fiona Dudley.

Dudley, Fiona

The Simulated Patient Handbook

Radcliffe Publishing 2012

The author, Fiona Dudley, is an occupational therapist who works as a simulated patient (SP) in the UK. She wrote this book based largely on her own experiences. She uses a conversational tone rather than an academic voice, with the inclusion of many exclamation marks and humorous cartoons, so it’s an easy read. There are some direct quotes from SPs that are very insightful although they are somewhat awkwardly placed, making it hard to tell them apart from the main text.

The target audience for this book are largely readers new to having SPs involved in the teaching of consultation/communication/non-technical skills, and new SPs themselves.  The emphasis is definitely on consultation skills with only small reference to SPs in examination scenarios. The cultural context is not Australian, so there are some assumptions made about the SP workforce that need to be sifted through being before applied here.

The book is divided into four parts: background on the work of simulated patients and the importance of consultation skills training; preparing simulated patients and scenarios; managing education sessions; and simulated patients in assessment and for other purposes.

There are also seven appendices: common terms used in a consultation (for SPs), sample scenarios, resources for role development, a list of mood ‘indicators’ or signs, communication skills teaching models, The Six Hats (Edward de Bono) Method for large group discussion, and suggested further reading. The book finishes with a useful index.

The main emphasis of the text is on the preparation and training needed for simulation scenarios. It discusses how SPs and facilitators can establish an SP role and vary it, and the importance of ‘de-roling’ for SPs. There are also good pointers on how to giving appropriate feedback, including models of feedback and the need to train SPs in this art.

Other chapters include how to write a scenario (with example template), the simulated patient as teacher, SPs in assessment, diverse situations for SP roles (e.g. for personnel recruitment), and the challenges for SPs and instructors. One of the final sections is an eclectic chapter on ‘any other business!’ that includes how to keep people safe, and general trouble-shooting issues.

To me, the most useful section was that on teaching methodology (Chapter 9: The consultation) with interesting and practical ideas on how to improve group dynamics, and different styles of running a session. There were important points on how to communicate with your SP during a session, using time-out or ‘freezing’ the consultation, managing more than one actor in a scenario (i.e., a carer or family), using a bilingual scenario, telephone consults, using a manikin-actor combination (hybrid scenario), and forum theatre (a method I had not heard of but will consider with interest).

This book would be a great asset to the new educator or simulated patient but also serves as a handy, practical guide for the more experienced.

 Pam Harvey

Monash University