Playing the Patient: The Role of Standardized Patients in Medical Education

At the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, Standardized Patients (SPs) play a crucial role in the ongoing education of medical students. Trained to accurately and realistically portray patients and evaluate necessary clinical and interpersonal skills, SPs work with medical students to teach them how to perform various examinations, utilize medical technologies such as point-of-care ultrasound machines, take accurate medical histories, and make patients feel comfortable and heard in the clinical environment.

Two longtime UVM Standardized Patients, Peter Kurth and Nicole D’Elisa, answer questions about how they became SPs, what their favorite scenarios are, and more.

Black and white photo of Matt Breseman face wearing surgical mask and with EEG leads taped to forehead and temples

The Student Becomes the Patient

Early on in my illness a friend sent me a meme.

“How do medical students get sick; can’t they just open a textbook and cure themselves?” it asked.

Although it wasn’t that simple, I learned a lot from the process of trying to discover what was wrong with me…I was getting a crash course on the art of medicine from the patient perspective, with my medical bill jokingly serving as the cost of tuition.