Enhancing Standardized Participant Training

The unique way Jump Simulation, a part of OSF Innovation, educates and trains isn’t limited to the medical professionals and clinicians-in-training who walk through our door every day. We also work to deliver world-class training to the people behind the scenes, those responsible for ensuring our clinicians are ready to tackle whatever lies ahead. This includes teaching faculty and clinical educators how to write curriculum, facilitate simulations and the skills necessary for an enriching debriefing experience.

It also includes working with new Standardized Participants (SPs) who portray a variety of roles such as patients, family members and members of the clinical team within our simulated environments. Demand for our SPs has only grown since the opening of Jump with more than 65 programs requiring over 10,000 hours of our experienced performers. 

As a result, we launched the SP Mentor program in early 2017 with the goal of connecting new SPs with those who’ve been in the field for a while. Our seasoned “actors” train, observe and provide feedback to those entering the program for the first time. We believe this program will enhance the quality of the training and development we provide to learners.

The Need for Mentors

When the Standardized Participant program began in 2013, there were only 24 SPs and they mostly took on the roles of patients. But as the years have gone by, more facilitators are seeing the long-term benefit of giving medical students, residents and other medical professionals the ability to practice their communication skills with real people.

Now, many of our simulations require SPs to act as family members and there’s even more need for our team members to take on the roles of nurses and physicians with the ability to understand clinical terminology and basic clinical skills. With that, we have brought on 41 SPs with diverse backgrounds, so we can meet any educational need that may be asked of us. We pair new SPs with experienced SPs for the one-on-one guidance they need.

“I think it’s just helpful to have someone who’s been in that spot,” said James Budds, a long-time SP and mentor. “We’ve all had scenarios where we thought we could’ve done better. To have someone there who can give advice is awesome.”

We give them a variety of tips such as taking the time to develop their characters and to avoid going overboard in their adlibbing skills.

“We are a major part of the high-stakes exam process for medical students,” said Kristen Vonachen, another long-time SP and mentor. “If you forget a piece of information or give the wrong data, it can lead students down a wrong path which could cause them to fail or get a lower grade than they deserve based on our performance. That’s a lot of pressure. You want the learners to do the best they can. We’re here to help them learn. So if you mess up, it’s a big impact.”

We also tell our new SPs to resist the urge to only tell learners they have done a good job. We train our SPs to be more specific about clinician behaviors and how those behaviors made the actors feel as a patient, family member or member of care team. Most of all, it’s a mentor’s job to give positive reinforcement and build the confidence of new SPs.

Standardized Participant Training is Never Over

We receive phenomenal feedback from clinical educators and faculty departments, but the minute you think you’ve arrived, you are already moving backward. It’s our team’s goal to continually improve and harness the passion our Mission Partners have to succeed.

With that, I foresee many of our experienced SPs graduating to educator roles where they are a larger part of the medical education process. We see this as an opportunity to enhance the education we provide.  


Categories: Clinical Simulation, Communication, Education, In Situ, Medical Students, Simulation, Standardized Participant (SP)