Standardized patients (SPs) play a critical role in the education of future health care professionals. They enable DMU students to gain and improve clinical and professional skills before they interact with “real” patients.

Interested in Becoming a Standardized Patient?

If you have any questions or are interested in becoming a standardized patient please contact Ashley Kern. When available, SPAL patient openings are posted on DMU’s employment page. Follow the directions to complete the online application.

What is a Standardized Patient?

Standardized patients are carefully trained to portray or simulate a real patient, based on the case being tested. SPs retained for an event receive the case documents via email prior to the scheduled training session so they can prepare before their training. They are required to attend a two- to four-hour training session in order to participate in an event. During the training session, they learn how to best portray the patient, including how to assess the student and what to look for in the learner’s handling of the case. They also learn which physical exams (heart and lung exam, blood pressure reading, pulse, look in the eyes, ears, nose and throat, press on abdomen) will be performed and how to score them accurately. SPs are trained to give feedback based on the learning and testing metrics set by the course and are trained to be as standardized as possible to ensure reliability. Training usually takes place a week before the scheduled event.


SPs are trained by standardized patient trainers with the support of the course director.  The SP trainer is responsible for the overall integrity and quality of the event. The SP trainer monitors and completes Quality Assurance (QA) to ensure consistency and SP accuracy. They constantly provide feedback to the SPs during and after events to develop the SPs’ skill sets.


Standardized Patients assess students, providing a combination of written and verbal feedback, using the global humanistic rubric. Humanistic skills include: verbal and non-verbal communication, listening skills, history organization skills, empathy, physical exam organization, professionalism, diagnosis and plan. These categories are assessed to further advance students’ patient interaction skills, in preparation for the national board exam. In addition to the humanistic skills, SPs have recently assisted both the DO and PA programs in assessing physical exam skills. Through comprehensive training, our Standardized Patient program is dedicated to preparing tomorrow’s healthcare professionals.

What to expect

The majority of the cases require the SP to wear a gown for an event. Undergarments will be worn under the gown along with elastic waist shorts to make it easy for the learner to maneuver them during the physical exam portion. Ankle high socks are also worn. No invasive exams (breast, pap, pelvic, rectal, prostate or testicular) are performed; however, the learner is expected to include follow-up plans for any invasive exams needed, and discuss them with the patient or include them in their plan as warranted.

Responsibilities/expectations of the SP include but are not limited to the following:

  • Have internet and email access
  • Have computer skills in order to input feedback
  • Attend required training session/s
  • Accurately memorize, retain and recall case facts
  • Portray and simulate patients in an accurate, standardized and consistent way repeatedly during an event
  • Stay focused during the encounter and remain “in role”
  • Observe and accurately document in the current software a focused and objective evaluation of each learner’s performance on checklists and scales
  • Provide quality feedback to learners regarding interpersonal and physical examination skills
  • Apply strong communication skills – written and verbal
  • Be dependable and punctual
  • Be nonjudgmental
  • Be professional and respectful
  • Maintain and preserve confidentiality
  • Be willing to have encounters recorded and used for training and educational purposes
  • Be comfortable with being touched in a non-invasive manner by learners in a training and learning environment
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