Learning in a safe environment
Medical schools need to teach communication skills, such as how to take a history, give information to patients, communicate effectively with colleagues, break bad news, and negotiate changes in behaviour—as well as to develop “process” skills, such as how to deal with different relationships, build rapports, and have empathy. One way of doing this is to use simulated patients or actors to allow students to practise without worrying that they might say the wrong thing to patients.
Simulated patients were first used in 1963 by Howard Barrows,1 a neurologist and medical educator at the University of Southern California. Simulated patients are now used across all medical schools in the UK, and worldwide
Simulation training is “a safe and ‘mistake forgiving’ environment that enables consideration of the trainees’ needs, without the use of real patients.”2 Students get feedback on their performance, and the tutor can use a “stop start” approach to