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Standardized Performance Assessment Laboratory (SPAL)


The Standardized Performance Assessment Lab (SPAL) provides a clinical setting for DMU students to apply their professionalism, communication, organization, clinical reasoning and examination skills without risk to themselves or their patients. The DMU SPAL began as a pilot project during the 1996-97 academic year with 16 patient encounters. Today, SPAL manages nearly 5,000 patient encounters annually.

SPAL is used by the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.), Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.), Physician Assistant (PA) and the Master’s of Health Care Administration (M.H.A.) programs. Students from all the DMU colleges have multiple SPAL experiences that include a wide variety of clinical presentations. Clinical students work with standardized patients (SPs), local citizens who are hired and trained to portray or simulate a real patient, based on the case being tested. M.H.A. students work through a scenario in a simulated health care setting with individuals trained to portray roles within that setting.

Students in SPAL

Aligned with the mission of the University, the purpose of the DMU SPAL is to promote the delivery of competent and compassionate health care through educational experiences tailored to meet the needs of diverse learners within a safe, nurturing and professional learning environment. SPAL fulfills its purpose in several ways because it

  • models the health care system-based care delivery context
  • serves a variety of health care disciplines
  • benefits students at all skill levels
  • places emphasis on critical patient safety issues
  • links instruction and assessment with professional competency attainments
  • facilitates professional growth in confidence and self-esteem
  • supports development of strong foundational skills in patient interviewing
  • assesses proper physical exam techniques/skill proficiencies
  • develops and assesses humanistic skills that enhance the patient-centered care philosophies of modern health care, including verbal and non-verbal communication, listening, empathy, professionalism, and organization