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Key challenges in simulated patient programs: An international comparative case study

Author(s): Nestel Debra | Tabak Diana | Tierney Tanya | Layat-Burn Carine | Robb Anja | Clark Susan | Morrison Tracy | Jones Norma | Ellis Rachel | Smith Cathy | McNaughton Nancy | Knickle Kerry | Higham Jenny | Kneebone Roger

Journal: BMC Medical Education
ISSN 1472-6920

Volume: 11;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 69;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background The literature on simulated or standardized patient (SP) methodology is expanding. However, at the level of the program, there are several gaps in the literature. We seek to fill this gap through documenting experiences from four programs in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. We focused on challenges in SP methodology, faculty, organisational structure and quality assurance. Methods We used a multiple case study method with cross-case synthesis. Over eighteen months during a series of informal and formal interactions (focused meetings and conference presentations) we documented key characteristics of programs and drew on secondary document sources. Results Although programs shared challenges in SP methodology they also experienced differences. Key challenges common to programs included systematic quality assurance and the opportunity for research. There were differences in the terminology used to describe SPs, in their recruitment and training. Other differences reflected local conditions and demands in organisational structure, funding relationships with the host institution and national trends, especially in assessments. Conclusion This international case study reveals similarities and differences in SP methodology. Programs were highly contextualised and have emerged in response to local, institutional, profession/discipline and national conditions. Broader trends in healthcare education have also influenced development. Each of the programs experienced challenges in the same themes but the nature of the challenges often varied widely.
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