What is a standardized patient?

Standardized or simulated patients (SPs) are individuals who are carefully screened and trained to simulate the signs and symptoms of an actual patient. The cases they portray are based on actual patient encounters experienced by physicians. Standardized patients  are also trained to provide feedback to the students, especially in the area of interpersonal communication.

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How are standardized patients  used at the University of Virginia School of Medicine?

The use of standardized patients  in the teaching and assessment of clinical and communication skills continues to expand. Currently, the Clinical Skills Center supports and enhances the curricula of the Schools of Medicine and Nursing as well as providing services to several health care institutions in the Commonwealth.

The use of standardized patients allows medical students and faculty to experience:

  • Hands-on teaching, patient interaction, examination practice, and assessment of their clinical, professional and communication skills in an authentic examination scenario
  • Immediate feedback
  • Patient-centered interviewing techniques
  • Patient diversity and cultural differences
  • Multiple diseases
  • Visual monitoring through video taping and/or web-streaming
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Professionalism issues


Clinical Skills Center provides opportunities for instruction and assessment in the following areas:

  • History-gathering process
  • Communication skills
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic skills
  • Patient feedback
  • Patient management plans

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Are Standardized Patients paid for their participation?

Yes, SPs are paid for their participation in our programs. Payment ranges from $15-20 per hour and is dependent upon the nature of the project.

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How are Standardized Patients trained for a program?

Each standardized patient  is carefully screened to determine how to best use existing skills or attributes. Training time for individual cases varies from 5-20 hours for each program and includes independent study and instructional workshops led by the Program Director, trainers, and clinical faculty. During the workshops, simulated patients and patient instructors learn the case, the program’s objectives and hone their communication skills.

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Whom do I contact if I am interested in developing a case and/or discussing how this program may be used in my department or class?

Case development takes time and usually requires numerous revisions. Allow adequate time if you are interested in developing cases.

Please contact Elizabeth Briere for more information.

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