About Our Program and Facility

Approximately 45 years ago, medical schools were looking for a way to get beginning medical students out of the lecture hall and labs to work with real people before the third year, which was the traditional start of patient contact. Standardized Patient programs were created to meet this need and allowed for students to gain crucial interpersonal and clinical skills in simulated but realistic encounters. This shift provided higher quality education by giving students access to realistic patient encounters from the very beginning of their medical education.

The University of Arizona College of Medicine was the third school in the United States to establish a Standardized Patient (SP) program as a resource for medical sciences curricula. Our team of Standardized Patients has expanded beyond the College of Medicine to assist any department within UAHS to strengthen clinical and professional skills. Our expansive facility opened in July 2019 and allows students in Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Veterinary Medicine to learn and develop their clinical skills.

Standardized patients, or SPs, are diverse people from our local community who are trained to work with students studying in health care professions by providing realistic social and emotional history in a clinical encounter. SPs are lay people trained in physical exam and interview techniques so they can portray specific situations and illnesses. They must also observe and document student performance and have the ability to give appropriate feedback. They interact with faculty and students in either small groups or individually, and are expected to provide either verbal or written feedback about the student’s physical exam, interview, and interpersonal skills.  SPs are used for both teaching and testing activities, and they provide students opportunities to learn and practice new skills in a safe and supportive setting.

SPs are trained to:

  • Act out real life scenarios based on actual patient cases.
  • Meet students along with their faculty and accurately represent a medical patient with various symptoms and complaints.
  • Participate in simulated office visits where students ask medical history questions and/or conduct basic, non-invasive physical exams.
  • Evaluate the students’ performance in the medical interview, physical examination, diagnoses, and presenting decision information skills.
  • Use their bodies to facilitate physical exam practices in various capacities. 

SPs must be able to portray a particular case or patient presentation accurately and consistently and accurately evaluate each student’s performance using a checklist.

SPs must have the communication and interpersonal skills to provide written and oral feedback to an individual student in a constructive manner.

SPs are not required to have a pre-existing medical condition.

SPs need to have a flexible schedule as most educational activities take place during traditional business hours. 

SPs must be able and willing to work collaboratively with all participants including ICaPS staff, students, faculty and administrators

This is a part-time ancillary University of Arizona position and is employed for less than an average of 20 hours per week. As of Fall 2021 the pay rate is $20 per hour at .025 Full Time Equivalency. SPs are selected for work based on their availability and program need. 

SPs are required to participate in a two-part training program facilitated by ICaPS staff before they begin working with students. 

Our clinic is located on the 8th floor of the Health Science Innovations Building (HSIB). There are 30 exam rooms, 12 small group rooms and a dedicated monitoring room. Due to covid-19  no more than four people can be in an exam room at the same time.