"PLACES!" goes the call to the actors waiting in an office near the Robert Morris University RISE Center simulation rooms. Trained actors, known as standardized patients, climb under the covers of the hospital beds in the RISE simulation center to await the knock on the door, announcing the entrance of the next student.
Standardized patients, also called simulated patients, are actors trained in patient role portrayal and in giving formative feedback to learners. The RMU RISE Center in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences is home to RMU's Standardized Patient program. RMU Communications professor Ken Gargaro, PhD, introduced the idea of standardized patients to then RISE Director Valerie Howard, PhD, RN and their insight into the future of simulation for health care learners lead to the currently flourishing SP program. The program was developed by Donna McDermott , PhD, MSN, RN as a graduate student project, and is now managed by Jan Barber MSN, RN, RISE Center Operations Manager, Standardized Patient Education Planner; Since it's inception the SP program has logged thousands of hours of student interaction with the trained patients.
SP simulation is especially useful for scenarios that focus on communication skills. We use SP simulation most often for our psychiatric nurse practitioner students but have added SP simulation to other courses such as DNP diagnostics, DNP advanced assessment, and pediatrics, as well as undergraduate psych, med/surg, Foundations and Community nursing courses. Moulage, or specialized makeup, can be used to mimic injuries and illnesses such as traumatic wounds, bruising, or jaundice and increases the fidelity, or realism of the simulation.
The actors who portray patients say that it is extremely rewarding work for several reasons. SP work is a rich improvisational experience which may stretch the actors' skills. The more significant payoff for many is knowing that they are contributing to the future of healthcare by providing an irreplaceable learning experience for our future BSN prepared registered nurses and doctoral degree nurse practitioners. Students often say they love working with SPs as it enhances the realism of the simulation and they very much appreciate the feedback the SPs give at the end of the scenario.
Jan Barber MSN, RN, RISE Center Operations Manager, Standardized Patient Education Planner can be reached at Barber@RMU.edu, 412-397-6350.