As a medical student, I can't help but feel sympathetic for standardized patients. These trained actors take on the persona of someone with a real medical concern and allow medical students to interview and exam them for a "diagnosis." So imagine going to your doctor knowing he/she had no idea what they were doing.
I can only think that the feeling is nerve-racking. Yet, the experience is a critical component of training the next horde of physicians before they interact with real patients. Journalist Emily Yoffe describes her experience as a standardized patient for second-year medical students at Georgetown's Medical School. Her account is quite funny:
Some were shaking so violently when they approached me with their otoscopes-the pointed device for looking in the ear-that I feared an imminent lobotomy. Some were certain about the location of my organs, but were stymied by the mechanics of my hospital gown and drape. And a few were so polished and confident that they could be dropped midseason into Grey's Anatomy.
The feedback provided from standardized patients this early in a student's training is important for understanding how to become a better doctor not just in physical exam technique but more importantly in connecting with vulnerable individuals on a personal level.
A new contributor to Scope, Stesha Doku is a second-year Stanford medical student writing about international health, medical technology and education. She is currently doing public health research in Sydney, Australia.