University of Pittsburgh

Using Standardized Patients in Teaching & Assessment

The ability of a clinician to develop rapport with a patient, the skill to perform an organized physical examination, and the competency to gather an accurate and concise history are the hallmarks of a successful clinician. The Office of Medical Education has developed the Standardized Patient Program to assist you in teaching and evaluating these skills.

Standardized Patients are not meant as replacements for experience with real patients but rather as highly realistic learning resources for students. This learning resource helps the students develop skills in interviewing and examination techniques.

Standardized Patients serve medical education by participating in the following areas:

    • Demonstration and instruction
    • Practice and experience
    • Evaluation and assessment

Skills where SPs are beneficial:


      • History taking
      • Complete history
      • Focused history
      • Problem-based history
      • Communication skills
      • Data gathering
      • Interpersonal skills
      • Communication challenges such as a difficult patient or breaking bad news
      • Addressing sensitive issues with patients

Physical Examination

      • Normal physical exam
      • Complete physical exam
      • Focused physical exam
      • Problem-based physical exam
      • Physical signs or findings
      • Sensitive or invasive examinations (gynecological/genitourinary)
      • Patient-perspective feedback and coaching

Some of our recent collaborative projects using Standardized Patients include:

    • Medical Interviewing Course
    • Clinical Skills Course
    • Combined Ambulatory Medicine/Pediatrics Clerkship
    • Adult Inpatient Medicine Clerkship
    • Clinical Competency Assessment
    • Basic Science of Care Course
    • Faculty Development
    • A 4th-year medical student activity that focuses on approaches to difficult conversations
    • Behavioral Medicine - focusing on approaches of behavior change through Motivational Interviewing
    • A Residency program that focuses on introducing Shared Decision Making strategies
How Standardized Patients Can Benefit Your Program
How to Incorporate Standardized Patients in Courses
Courses That Use Standardized Patients in Teaching and Assessment
Consulting and Specialized Services
Clinical Skills Online