Volunteer Simulated Patient Program
The Simulated Patient (SP) Program is an initiative developed by UNSW Medicine & Health which helps develop our junior students into leading doctors of the future. Volunteering to be a SP provides our young medical students with a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.
The focus of interactions is to develop students' communication skills. This includes their ability to initiate and maintain respectful interactions with patients and to develop rapport so that patients feel able to divulge all relevant information during a consultation. By communicating with people from the community in a safe and supportive teaching environment, students start to gain confidence and develop their ‘bedside manner’. SPs have the opportunity to provide constructive verbal feedback during SP sessions, which students find extremely helpful.
We also have an online SP Program, with a twist. Here a volunteer has the flexibility of assisting from home at a time which suits them. As well as playing the patient, the SP also provides written feedback and assessment post the interview to support student learning. Again, the focus is on generic communication skills, not their clinical understanding so all the feedback is about how the student develops rapport, gathers information and makes the SPA (Simulated Patient Assessor) feel listened to as a ‘patient’.
How does it work?
Registered campus SPs are advised of upcoming sessions which take place in the Clinical Skills Centre, ground floor of the UNSW Medicine & Health Wallace Wurth building on the Kensington campus. These run from Monday to Friday over a two-week period with different students each day. SPs are requested for either a 12-2pm or a 2.30-4.30pm session. SPs can nominate the days which suit them best then a roster is created.
We may provide SPs with a scenario in which they can play the role of a patient with a particular medical history. In that case we find a scenario which suits them best, and which will provide the students with an authentic patient role and situation.
In other sessions, no scenarios are required, such as for our “Skin Sessions”. Make-up artists apply fake skin lesions to our SPs. The medical students practice general consultation skills, describing the skin problem to the patient in easy-to-understand language.
We sometimes request SPs for physical examination practice only. This is to help students develop confidence in examining a diverse range of people from our community.
We also have once-a-year, Bumps n’ Bundles sessions where pregnant women and mothers with young children are able to share their experiences with our students. These sessions take place online.
Registered online SPAs for our platform OSPIA are contacted regularly for when appointments are required during a course. They are advised of scenario options which correspond to the material the students are studying at the time. OSPIA stands for Online Simulated Patient & Assessment.
Support is provided for new volunteers on how to play the patient, how to give feedback and (if a SPA online), how to assess. Some of this takes place in online meetings for convenience.
There are therefore different ways to get involved:
- Become an on-campus Simulated Patient (SP) volunteer
- Become an online Simulated Patient Assessor (SPA) volunteer
- You can do both!
- Some SPs also like to assist with exams which take place at the end of each year at different clinical schools.
The most important thing is there is no major time commitment: our volunteers can dip in and out across the year.
- If I volunteer as a campus SP, how long am I there for? No more than 2 hours.
- If I volunteer as an online SPA, how long is each appointment I make? An appointment will go for 15 minutes. Allow another 15 minutes for the assessment part, so approximately 30 minutes in total.
- How do you select me? After completing the Expression of Interest form, you will be contacted to talk further about the roles we have and if they are a good fit.
- Do I get paid? No, these are volunteer roles only. When on campus, refreshments are provided.
- Is there parking if I come on campus? There is generally parking available, and this is covered by us if you choose to do so.
- Are there campus sessions every day? Only weekdays, no weekends. You pick the days which suit you, then a roster is created.
- Do I need to be really healthy? No, non-athletes welcome!
- Can I talk about my own health problems? No, our SPs are provided with fake information (a scenario) which corresponds with the material they are learning in class, different body systems each course.
- Are there physical exams? Sometimes. We will advertise when this is required for certain campus sessions. SPs can opt not to do these sessions or they may wish to only do these sessions.
- Is it okay to take part if I have a relation in the Medicine Program? Generally, no, due to the conflict of interest. Please see the EOI form.
- Can children/teens take part? You must be over 18 years old to participate in the SP program, online or on campus.