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Standardized Patients

About Standardized Patients

A Standardized or Simulated Patient (SP) is a person who has been coached to simulate an encounter with an actual patient or other person that a learner might encounter. In performing the simulation, the SP presents not just the “story” (history), but the body language, the physical findings, and the emotional and personality characteristics of the patient being portrayed.

What is a Standardized/Simulated Patient/Individual?

Standardized Patients (SP) or Standardized Individuals (SI) are individuals trained to realistically portray patients or other people who a learner might encounter in their practice. These simulated encounters give learners (medical students, medical residents, other health care professionals, chaplain interns and other non-medical trainees) the opportunity to learn and practice effective communication and examination techniques with real people in a safe, controlled environment. The learner can develop these skills without concern that they might do harm, since the person they are interacting with is an actor.

Why Standardized?

In addition to learning and practicing interpersonal communication skills, learners can be evaluated on those skills using SP/SI methodology. Several people can be trained to portray the same individual (patient) with the same story, behaviors and emotional characteristics. In this way a large number of students can all meet with the same person (played by many different SI) and have the same experience.

At Upstate SP/SI methodology is used in teaching and evaluating:

  • Medical students
  • Medical residents in various specialties
  • Physician Assistant students
  • Nurse Practitioner students
  • Physical Therapy students
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) students
  • Teacher Education students


SP/SI are also trained to provide patient-centered meaningful feedback to learners. They can “come out of character” after an encounter and provide insight into what it felt like for them be the learner’s patient/client/student. The SI provides feedback that no one else can give because it is based on their experience with this learner.