Standard Patient Program

What is a Standardized Patient (SP)?

An SP is a person trained to portray a patient scenario, or an actual patient using their own history and physical exam findings, for the instruction, assessment or practice of communication and/or examining skills of a health care provider. In the health and medical sciences, SPs are used to provide a safe and supportive environment conducive for learning of for standardized assessment".

Our SPs come from a variety of backgrounds, including retired teachers and lawyers. To become an SP at MHSC, no acting experience is required. Only a handful of our SPs are professional actors.

Qualities of our MHSC Standardized Patients

Punctuality is important for the reputation of MHSC. It is mandatory that you arrive at MHSC 30 minutes prior to the start of the performance (NOT training). This is unpaid time to prepare your room, equipment and paperwork for the session. It also gives MHSC staff time to communicate last-minute client changes. Unforeseen circumstances arise for everyone, but punctuality is a professional courtesy for our learners. A pattern of tardiness may impact your selection for events.

Confidentiality: No learner or other participant performances are to be discussed with anyone by name or identifying specifics other than with the MHSC SP Program Coordinators. We must maintain total privacy for the learners at all times.

Flexibility: We value the ability to adapt quickly to changes and working with changes.

Consistent High Quality Performances: Our best SPs understand the performance standards and details necessary to accurately portray cases and provide meaningful learner evaluations. This also includes working to improve performances based on SP trainer feedback.


The MHSC's main method of communication is email. The SP coordinators will send out a "roll call" email for a program up to one month in advance. The schedule is completed based on a "first come, first serve" basis, as well as consideration for the amount of work given lately. Confirmation of program participation is sent out via email. Work as an SP at MHSC can be sporadic and averages at most, ten hours per month.


As an SP at MHSC, you are considered a "study participant" and are paid at an hourly rate. This status does not allow for benefits. You will be paid for training and performance hours. A check will be mailed to you after a program ends.

Additional Information

Gowns: For our programs with a physical exam component, SPs are required to wear a hospital gown. Female SPs are permitted to wear jogging shorts and a sports bra underneath their gowns. Male SPs are permitted to wear jogging shorts underneath their gowns.

Video recording: Most of our simulated patient encounters are recorded for quality assurance purposes. In addition, the recordings are often used for learners' self-reflective writing assignments.

Non-invasive physical exams: Some of our programs have a physical exam component. However, none of the exams are invasive. Examples of exams that might take place are cardiopulmonary, abdominal or neurological. SPs are not required to participate in programs with physical exams.

Volunteer to be an SP

SPs have skills and interest in training clinicians to better handle professional, patient and family communications. Scenarios emphasize a range of skills from the most basic history and physical examination to more challenging situations such as breaking bad news, medical error disclosure, obtaining informed consent, or gender/age/ethnicity sensitivity training.

SPs are often "hybridized" with other modalities such as high-fidelity mannequins or procedural trainers to greatly improve realism for the learner.

Examples include:

  • Combining an SP with a birth simulator to provide a realistic portrayal of a newborn delivery.
  • Using a training arm joined to the SP under a sheet, they may portray an anxious patient who must be calmed during an IV insertion.
  • They portray family members during a witnessed resuscitation to help clinicians learn how to approach this challenging and delicate situation.
  • They may act as victims of a mass-casualty event, helping clinicians learn to triage and treat under this unusual circumstance.

 Essentially limitless possibilities exist for SPs to portray real situations that help train healthcare providers from all disciplines.

A critical part of simulation training involves the feedback and debriefing that takes place after a simulation exercise. The SP can be directly involved in the debriefing, providing the perspective of the patient to the caregiver. A well-rounded simulation program utilizes SPs to their maximal capacity, providing training that can’t reasonably be achieved by any other means.

If you are interested in becoming an SP, email Becky Moldaver