What is a Standardized Patient?

A medical student examining an SP during an exam.

A Standardized Patient (SP) is a layperson trained to realistically portray different types of scenarios and illnesses health care professionals will encounter in the medical field. Specific genders and ages are represented as well as people with diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Difficult personality types and sensitive subject matter are also introduced to the students through interviews with SPs. During some encounters, the student performs an interview and either a portion of or a complete physical examination on the patient. After each encounter, the SP is responsible for evaluating the performance of the student and filling out a checklist indicating their proficiency in both interviewing and physical exam situations. Each exam is designed to enhance the student's learning experience by allowing them ample opportunity to hone his or her skills in a safe and supportive environment. SPs are an invaluable part of the education of students in several health care colleges from their first year of training through their professional lives.

Standardized Patient Program Coordinator, Joe Gatton, training SPs in preparation for a physical exam.

“The Standardized Patient program has been invaluable in teaching and testing the clinical skills for our students and residents.  We’ve shown such skills are learned at a deeper level and retained longer than traditional instruction.”
Andrew R. Hoellein, MD, MS, FACP – UK College of Medicine

“I have had the opportunity to work with the UK College of Medicine Standardized Patient program since 2001.  The Standardized Patients are well trained and provide a realistic experience and excellent feedback so that our students have the ability to incorporate this feedback in their practice setting.”
Lynne A. Jensen, PhD, ARNP, BC – UK College of Nursing

“Working with the standardized patients lets students discover how to use their gift of learning to be a physician in the best way possible.”
Janice M. Kregor, MD – UK College of Medicine

 “The Standardized Patient program at UK is invaluable to health professions education.”
Mandy Jones, Pharm.D., PA-C, BCPS – UK College of Pharmacy

Standardized Patients in a training session with Dr. Janice Kregor in preparation for interview practice labs with first-year medical students.

Standardized Patient Studies: 

SA Haist, AR Hoellein, G Talente, ML Jessup, JF Wilson. Improving Students’ Sexual History Inquiry and HIV Counseling with an Interactive Workshop Using Standardized Patients. J Gen Intern Med. 2004;19:549-553.

Haist SA, Lineberry MJ, Griffith CH, Hoellein AR, Talente, GM, Wilson JF. Sexual History Inquiry and HIV Counseling: Improving Clinical Skills and Medical Knowledge through an Interactive Workshop Utilizing Standardized Patients,Advances in Health Sciences Education. 2008; 13(4):427-434

Feddock CA, Hoellein AR, Griffith CH, Wilson JF, Lineberry MJ, Haist SA. Enhancing Knowledge and Clinical Skills Through an Adolescent Medicine Workshop. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(3):256-260. 

Hoellein AR, Griffith CH, Lineberry MJ, Wilson JF, Haist SA. A Complementary and Alternative Medicine Workshop Using Standardized Patients Improves Knowledge and Clinical Skills of Medical Students. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Nov/Dec 2009.

Haist SA, Wilson JF, Lineberry MJ, Gibson JS, Griffith CH. A Randomized Controlled Trial Using Insinuated Standardized Patients to Assess Residents’ Domestic Violence Skills following a Two-hour Workshop. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 2007; 19: 336-342.

Haist SA, Wilson JF, Pursley, HG, Jessup ML, Gibson JS, Kwolek DS, Stratton TD, Griffith CH. Domestic Violence: Increasing Knowledge and Improving Skills with a Four-Hour Workshop Using Standardized Patients. Acad Med.2003;78:S24-S26.

Griffith CH, Wilson JF, Langer S, Haist SA. Housestaff Nonverbal Communication Skills and Standardized Patient Satisfaction. J Gen Intern Med. 2003; 18: 170-174.

Duke MB, Griffith CH, Haist SA, Wilson JF. A Clinical Performance Exercise for Medicine-Pediatrics Residents Emphasizing Complex Ambulatory and Psychosocial Skills. Acad Med. 2001; 76: 1153-1157.