Standardized Patients in Medical TrainingThe Associated Press published an article on June 8 that provides a look at how "standardized patients" are used to help medical students hone and demonstrate their clinical skills. As enumerated by Cafe Nicholas, the director of the Standardized Patient Program at the University of Vermont's medical school, these clinical skills include how "you present yourself to a patient communication-interpersonal skills, history taking skills, physical exam skills, clinical reasoning."
The website of the Association of Standardized Patient Educators defines a standardized patient as
a person who has been carefully coached to simulate an actual patient so accurately that the simulation cannot be detected by a skilled clinician. In performing the simulation, the SP presents the gestalt of the patient being simulated; not just the history, but the body language, the physical findings, and the emotional and personality characteristics as well.What the AP article doesn't cover is the four decades of effort that lie behind today's widespread use of standardized patient methodology for medical training and evaluation. You can read that informative history (through the mid-'90s) here (pdf). A key point is that the methodology was and, in some quarters, still is, met with skepticism. It took its advocates many years to build support through hands-on demonstrations across North America and documentation of training and evaluation outcomes.
To pick up an additional dimension of the story, you can read a savvy account of the standardized patient experience from the point of view of the person playing the patient here.