UTHSC Hiring People to Play Role of Patients in Simulation Trainings for Health Care Students

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A nursing student visits with a standardized patient in a simulation.

Every year, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center produces hundreds of health care professionals ready to begin seeing patents. In their training, every one of them has practiced caring for people who are paid to act out specific roles or conditions.

Simulated patients, or SPs, are adults, 18 and older, who portray common conditions to help students learn. They work from an outline prepared by UTHSC. The job does not require acting experience.

“If you were a kid who played sick to stay home from school, you are qualified to do this job,” said Jamie Pitt,” assistant director of education for standardized/simulated patients. “If you pulled the ‘Ferris Bueller Day Off’ thing, you can come work for us.”

All simulations take place during the day, Monday-Friday on campus at the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS), 26 S. Dunlap. SPs earn $16.50 an hour. UTHSC provides free parking. UTHSC needs people of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, and body types.

SPs help learners take patient histories, improve interviewing skills and provide patient education. They may be asked to play a patient with common issues, such as back pain, or be involved in a basic, noninvasive physical examination. Sometimes, SPs portray situations in which a patient might experience a range of emotions, such as when receiving a difficult diagnosis. They are never asked to be medical test subjects, take experimental medications or give blood or other samples.

SPs have been an important part of health care education in the United States since the 1960s. In the last academic year, the total pool of SPs at UTHSC spent more than 7,800 hours in simulated learning sessions with students.

“There is no set schedule – SPs can say yes or no to jobs as they come up,” Pitt said. The work is well suited to both young and older adults. The job requires some script memorization, plus the ability to give learners written and sometimes oral feedback on their performance. The sessions are recorded.

“We are really trying to give the students specific feedback, targeted to their communication skills and what things they should keep doing and then, what they should look at doing differently,” Pitt said.

Ural Grant, who has been an SP for several years, enjoys the work for several reasons, including contributing to the students’ education. “The verbal feedback sets you up to form relationships with the students,” he said. “The work is definitely something a variety of people for a variety of reasons could do, especially people who are interested in the medical field, education, or have an interest in flexible work.”

For a list of frequently asked Simulated/ Standardized Patient (SP) questions, please visit our website. If you’re interested in applying to be a standardized patient, you can find a link to the application here or by scrolling to the bottom of the FAQ page. Once on the UTHSC HR website, make sure to type “standardized patient” in the keyword box to find the job posting. If you have any questions about the hiring process, please reach out to the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation at simulate@uthsc.edu.