PCOM South Georgia Hiring Part-time Patient Actors

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

A 53-year old female patient was admitted to the hospital with dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue. She had a rapid heartbeat coupled with a persistent cough with pink blood-tinged phlegm.

A physician met with her to determine the underlying cause of her symptoms, taking a medical history, performing a physical exam, and ordering diagnostic tests. It was then that the patient was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

This scenario didn’t occur in a doctor’s office or hospital, but in the Simulation Center at PCOM South Georgia in Moultrie. Student doctors were applying the knowledge they’d learned in the classroom to a very life-like situation.

The middle-aged woman was actually a patient actor, also known as a standardized patient. She and others like her play an important role in the education of medical students. They learn detailed case information and respond to the students’ questions using this material. At the same time, they evaluate how the students relate to them so they can provide helpful advice.

PCOM South Georgia is currently seeking individuals to become part-time standardized patients who work at the college on an as-needed basis. George Fredrick, MD, primary skills site director, works with the standardized patients. He said, “Patient actors help to train our physicians, and they play a very important part in their journey.”

Dr. Fredrick explained, “The standardized patient receives a list of questions that have answers they’ll have to learn. They provide this information to the students in hopes that the future doctor will come up with a correct diagnosis and treatment plan at the end of the case.”

The role of a standardized patient is to assess the students' clinical and history-taking skills and communicate verbally to students about their interpersonal behaviors after the exam, which is why Sheila Chapel, simulation manager, says written and verbal communication skills are a must.

“They don’t have to be professional actors,” Chapel said. “We just need people who can adequately portray a real patient and have flexible schedules.”

Sessions typically take place on week days between 8-5 p.m. Paid practice sessions occur one to two weeks before the actual student sessions. All sessions are planned at least one month in advance.

Exam rooms in the Simulation Center are outfitted with three digital cameras to record standardized patient encounters with students. This allows the students to watch and critique themselves upon completion of the exam.

According to Chapel, the requirements for the position include:

A willingness to participate in a series of physical exams while wearing a hospital gown in a simulated exam room. No invasive procedures are performed.

The ability to portray patients with medical issues and offer evaluation to students.

A flexible schedule with availability during normal working hours.