Standardized Patient Program

What are standardized patients and why do you need them?

The term standardized patient (SP) has gone through many metamorphoses, as the process itself has been refined since its inception in 1963. There have been many other names attempting to describe this phenomenon: programmed patient, patient instructor, patient educator, professional patient, surrogate patient, teaching associate and—the more generic term—simulated patient. What all of these terms are referring to is a person who has been carefully trained to take on the characteristics of a real patient in order to provide an opportunity for a learner to learn or be evaluated on skills firsthand.

While working with the standardized patient, the learner can experience and practice clinical medicine without jeopardizing the health or welfare of real, sick patients. The value is in the experience of working with a patient. It takes the process of learning a step beyond the books and away from reliance on paper and pencil tests. It puts the learning of medicine in the arena of veritable clinical practice—not virtual reality, but veritable reality—as close to the truth of an authentic clinical encounter as one can get without actually being there, because there is a living, breathing, responding human being to encounter.”

– Peggy Wallace, PhD

Following the Threads of an Innovation:
The History of Standardized Patients in Medical Education

standard patient visit

About the Program

What is a standardized patient?

A standardized patient, also known as an SP, is a healthy person who has been carefully trained to portray the historical, physical and emotional features of an actual patient. Watch this video here. SPs provide an exceptional resource for teaching and assessment, allowing students an opportunity to:

  • Practice physical examination procedures in a safe environment
  • Develop doctor-patient communication skills
  • Obtain feedback from the SP regarding the physical exam from the patient’s point of view


Each SP encounter is designed to teach or assess skills appropriate to the student’s level of training. These simulations are standardized in order to provide the same information and a consistent testing environment for each student. This allows every student an equal opportunity to demonstrate his or her skills in key clinical and interpersonal areas within the UWS program.

Qualities of Standardized Patients

There are certain qualities we look for while hiring SPs for our program:

  • Punctuality
  • Reliability
  • Confidentiality
  • Ability to keep clear boundaries
  • Willingness and ability to undergo common physical exam procedures
  • Ability to memorize and provide realistic exam findings
  • Provide useful and constructive feedback