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Standardized Patients

The Allied Health Simulation Center uses both standardized patients (SPs) and embedded participants (EPs) in the majority of our simulation events. Standardized patient simulation involves the use of individuals trained to portray the roles of patients. This allows students to practice physical exam skills, history taking skills, communication skills and other exercises. Embedded participant simulation involves the use of individuals trained to portray the roles of family members, friends or other individuals. This helps guide the scenario and allows the student to practice communication skills.

What is a standardized patient?

Standardized Patients

Standardized patients train to consistently portray a patient or other individual in a scripted scenario for the purposes of instruction, practice or evaluation.

What is an embedded participant?

Embedded Participants

An embedded participant is “a role assigned in a simulation encounter to help guide the scenario. The guidance may be influential as positive, negative, or neutral or as a distracter, depending on the objective(s), the level of the participants, and the scenario. Although the embedded participant’s role is part of the situation, the underlying purpose of the role may not be revealed to the participants in the scenario or simulation.”¹

We formulate other scenarios around psychosocial issues. We use embedded participants to help students develop communication skills. These simulations allow them to work through difficult emotional situations in a safe environment.

What does an SP or EP do?

The case scenario scripts SPs and EPs study give them specific responses. The simulation also requires they act out behaviors and reactions necessary for realistic, standardized portrayals. Training may involve video review, coaching and role-play. In many cases, we ask the SP or EP to step out of a role at the end of an encounter and provide the student with valuable verbal and written feedback.

During an interaction with a student the SP or EP may:

  • Present case history in response to questioning by the student
  • Undergo a limited physical examination at the student’s direction
  • Assist students in developing their communication and clinical skills
  • Assist students in working through difficult emotional situations in a safe environment


The purpose of using SPs and EPs is to assist in the education and evaluation of healthcare students and workers in a controlled setting. This allows the student the benefit of honing their skills and decision-making abilities before working with actual patients.

1 Meakim, C., Boese, T., Decker, S., Franklin, A. E., Gloe, D., Lioce, L., Sando, C. R., & Borum, J. C. (2013, June). Standards of Best Practice: Simulation Standard I: Terminology. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 9(6S), S3-S11.  2013 International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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