Standardized patient: Over the course of three days, I had 23 head-to-toe physicals from 23 medical students

From Slate:

"I was the first person these would-be doctors had ever fully examined on their own. Some were shaking so violently when they approached me with their otoscopes—the pointed device for looking in the ear—that I feared an imminent lobotomy.

A "standardized patient" is a trained person who is paid $15 an hour to be poked and prodded by inexperienced fingers, so that med students can learn communication and examination skills before they are sicced on actual sick people.

Now there are standardized patients trained for genital duty (they're called GUTAs, for genitourinary teaching associates).

Dr. N wasted the first eight minutes of the exam trying repeatedly to get a blood pressure reading. The panic in his eyes seemed to say, "She appears to be alive, yet she has no vital signs."


Lakshman Swamy - Don't forget that some of them were capable! I have to say, in my experience as an MS2 at Wright State, our standardized patients are amazing teachers. It is much easier to learn physical exam skills and even interviewing when the patient can give you precise feedback. The author is right on with the characters that patients can portray... it is shocking when they break character to give feedback! Just recently I learned how to do the male exam with two standardized patients ("GUTA" -- never heard of that term before). I was definitely feeling a little ... awkward before the session began-- this was by far the most invasive thing I had ever done to another person. But the standardized patients were amazing about the whole process, even acting out the different hesitations that we might encounter in patients, emphasizing the importance of the exam, etc. Without being too graphic, I can't emphasize how much I learned about how to do those exams and what I was actually supposed to be finding. It was a totally different experience than I expected, and after it, I feel really confident about the whole process.

I can't even IMAGINE what it would be like to do that with my classmates-- and how much less I would have understood. Wow.

Oh, no! I'm the first patient these 23 medical students have ever examined. Slate, 2010.
Image source:, public domain.

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