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Spring 2014
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Feature Story
The Sims
Medical students get real-life experience in a simulated environment.

Decades ago, learning specialists determined that when teaching people to do something where the stakes are high and it’s important to do it correctly—say, for instance, flying a plane—it’s effective to train them in a simulated environment that mimics the real deal. Since caring for patients is also a pretty high-stakes endeavor, it made sense to design an entire suite in the Alpert Medical School building that simulates an outpatient physician’s office.

In each exam room, there’s a tall, reclining table for patients, blood pressure cuffs and otoscopes attached to the wall, and a computer. These rooms are extra wide, allowing a small group of students and mentors to stand comfortably depending on the teaching exercise. There are video cameras that record exchanges between students and the actors who serve as their “patients,” and they provide a live feed to the control room, where all of the rooms can be scanned at once.

All of this is used to hone Alpert medical students’ patient interviewing and physical exam skills. With the guidance of their teachers, students are able to practice what they are learning on the standardized patients (SPs). It’s safe—for the students who aren’t paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake with a real patient, and for those real patients at the mercy of a doctor in training.

The only flaw in the authenticity of the space, says Dana Zink, RN, who oversees the Clinical Skills Suite and recruits, trains, and manages the SPs, is “it’s a lot nicer than the offices where many of our faculty work.”


Jump right in

Above: Each Doctoring group of eight students is assigned to a seminar room and an exam room. Four students can head to the exam room to work with a standardized patient, while four stay with a social-behavioral faculty member to work on interviewing or counseling skills. Director of the Doctoring Course and of Clinical Curriculum Julie S. Taylor, MD, helps Amed Logrono ’12 MD’16 don his white coat for the first time.

Human touch

Left: Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine (Clinical) Michelle Daniel, left, course leader of Doctoring Year 2, helps Erica Alexander ’11 MD’15 with the cardiovascular exam.

Are you ready for your close-up?

Right: Gabi DuVernois ’11 MD’15 performs an eye exam on her standardized patient. SPs undergo training, but most come with innate talent, as actors from the local theater scene. Alpert Medical School has one of the highest rates of SP-student interaction among medical schools.

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