Standardized Patients and the Art of Medical Maladies

Learned something new, as often, in The New Yorker:

Standardized patient, or S.P.—someone who has been trained to portray specific symptoms or illnesses, so that medical students can practice on a living person without accidentally making things worse.

Mostly actors, standardized patients are standardized.


Their characters are based on tightly circumscribed biographies, which are developed in collaboration with medical-school faculty.

They’re trained to give detailed feedback about the way they’ve been treated, with the long-term goal of helping doctors improve their notoriously uneven record as listeners, empathizers, and non-interrupters—a job that becomes more difficult as the students become more experienced.

“We like to say that we’re using our acting powers for good,”

More background on modern medicine history and how doctors started to empathise with patients (and even tell them the truth about their conditions) post 1950’s thanks to Dr Rob Buckman who was also a comedian, became very sick and a patient and invented the

SPIKES protocol — an acronym standing for Setting, Perception, Invitation, Knowledge, Empathy, Strategy and Summary.

More on 99% invisible