I came to the HEAL training with no experience in acting as a simulated patient (SP) in health care education. However, I had had some experience in role plays related to IT education. The one day HEAL training was an excellent introduction to doing this kind of work in health education. The training was well structured and professionally delivered.
There was good mix of theory and practical exercises. On the theoretical side it covered what an SP is, why SPs are used, the responsibilities of an SP and the different types of SP work in health education. On the practical side a structured 4 stage model for preparation for role portrayal was introduced and the first stage of the model was completed for a sample scenario as a group exercise. This was an excellent way to become familiar with the patient role. A one-on-one role rehearsal activity followed. There was an opportunity to role play both the patient and the health professional.
An important part of SP work involves giving feedback. The HEAL feedback framework was introduced. The presenter role-played giving different types of feedback. This was to emphasise the type of communication required for giving feedback and was a very effective way of getting information across. We were given opportunities to practice giving feedback both in the role of patient and as health professional.
Printed material covering the main aspects of the training was provided for participants to take away. This included the 4 stage model for role preparation, the HEAL feedback framework and sample questions the health professional may ask.
Some aspects of the training were especially valuable. We were encouraged to act out the roles in a realistic manner. I found the session on learning to analyse the patient role and provide a backstory to a case study to be very helpful and an essential part of preparation for a role. The opportunities to get feedback on my performance in various roles was also very useful.
Overall the training was well designed and very effective. It was apparent that a lot of thought had gone into the training techniques and methods used. I would recommend the HEAL training for everyone who will be involved in SP work.
You can find out more about the HEAL Simulated Patient training sessions here - www.heal.edu.au