Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a standardized patient?

Standardized patients (SPs) are individuals who are carefully screened and trained to simulate the signs and symptoms of an actual patient. The cases they portray are based on actual patient encounters experienced by physicians. Standardized patients (SPs) are also trained to provide feedback to the students, especially in the area of interpersonal communication.



back to top

What is a patient instructor?

A patient instructor (PI) is either someone who has been carefully trained to perform, teach and evaluate certain basic clinical examination procedures or a real patient who shares his/her personal real-life experiences with students. The patient instructor provides additional skill instruction and reinforcement for the medical or allied health student.

back to top

How are standardized patients and patient instructors used at the University of Virginia School of Medicine?

The use of standardized patients and patient instructors in the teaching and assessment of clinical and communication skills continues to expand. Currently, the Clinical Skills Center supports and enhances the curricula of the Schools of Medicine and Nursing as well as providing services to several health care institutions in the Commonwealth.

The use of standardized patients allows medical students and faculty to experience:

  • Hands-on teaching, patient interaction, examination practice, and assessment of their clinical, professional and communication skills in an authentic examination scenario
  • Immediate feedback
  • Patient-centered interviewing techniques
  • Patient diversity and cultural differences
  • Multiple diseases
  • Visual monitoring through video taping and/or web-streaming
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Professionalism issues


Clinical Skills Center provides opportunities for instruction and assessment in the following areas:

  • history-gathering process
  • physical examination
  • diagnostic skills
  • patient feedback
  • patient management plans


Standardized patients are also used for training tapes, small group discussions and lecture demonstrations.

back to top

What characteristics make an effective standardized patient or patient instructor?

  • Excellent Communication Skills
  • An interest in education and personal health
  • Intelligence
  • Flexibility
  • Commitment/Reliability
  • Patience/Empathy

back to top

Are standardized patients and patient instructors paid for their participation?

Yes, SPs and PIs are paid for their participation in our programs. Payment ranges from $10-15 per hour and is dependent upon the nature of the project.

back to top

How are standardized patients and patient instructors trained for a program?

Each standardized patient or patient instructor is carefully screened to determine how to best use existing skills or attributes. Training time for individual cases varies from 5-20 hours for each program and includes independent study and instructional workshops led by the Program Director, trainers, residents and clinical faculty. During the workshops, standardized patients and patient instructors learn the case, the program’s objectives and hone their communication skills.

Patient instructors who are involved in our more invasive projects (female and male genital examinations) must be comfortable with using their bodies as instructional tools. They have received hours of training and certification from physicians in gynecology and urology. Our patient instructors are committed educators and proud of the role they have in teaching second year medical students how to do an examination as well as information about preventive and early intervention genital health care.

back to top

Where do I find an application?

This link will connect you to a Clinical Skills Center application and hiring procedures. Standardized Patient Application.

back to top

Who do I contact if I am interested in developing a case and/or discussing how this program may be used in my department or class?

Case development takes time and usually requires numerous revisions.  Allow adequate time if you are interested in developing cases.

Please contact Clinical Skills Center Director, Anne Chapin at (434) 243-9477.

back to top