Simulated Patient Program – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Graduate Medicine (GM)?In July 2004, the Australian Government approved the development of a Graduate Medicine at the University of Wollongong. The Government provided funds to help finance the purpose-built medical school buildings on the Wollongong and Shoalhaven campuses.
In January 2007, the first eighty students began their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Fifty-six new students were based at the Wollongong campus and twenty-four at the Shoalhaven campus in Nowra. Each January since then, approximately 2/3 of the total student cohort begin their MBBS degree at Wollongong and the other 1/3 at Shoalhaven.
The aim of GM is to produce excellent medical practitioners who are able to contribute to the enhancement of health care for patients in all geographic settings, but particularly in regional, rural and remote communities. It is also expected that GM graduates will have a commitment to patient-centred, evidence-based, reflective and cost-effective medical practice.
Why does Graduate Medicine need Simulated Patients (SPs)?
GM has adopted a wide range of learning and educational approaches as well as state of the art technologies to assist in the facilitation of such learning. One of the key learning activities for medical students will be the interaction between students and patients. In establishing a Simulated Patient Program, GM is ensuring that students are able to learn and continually practice appropriate communications with real people, make diagnoses and have immediate access to feedback in the simulated environment of the Clinical Skills Centre.
What would I have to do as a GM Simulated Patient?If you are recruited as a GM SP you will initially be required to undergo some basic training. Once that has occurred, you will be asked to participate in scripted role play sessions. Typically, a SP would be asked to familiarise themselves with a script, and “role play” a medical condition. This gives the medical student an opportunity to discuss and advise the SP according to what signs and symptoms he/she describes, while in a simulated environment.
SPs will also be needed for students to practise their physical examination skills - this will not include intimate examinations. All SPs will need to give informed consent to take part in any learning and teaching activities. SPs will also always be informed of the nature of the activity and the level of commitment required in advance. You can choose to be involved in role play or physical examination sessions, or both, whichever suits you best.
Many GM SPs continue to participate in the program over a period of time, accessing more training and becoming more skilled as they progress.
Do I have to be trained?Yes. Every SP will be required to attend some basic training and information sessions that familiarises you with the process and expectations of GM. This is to ensure that as a GM SP you are comfortable and familiar with your role which in turn will make it easier and more effective for the medical student. You will not need any particular experience or qualification to participate, GM will provide all necessary training and information for you.
If you choose to become a long-term SP, you may have the opportunity to undergo more comprehensive training and/or development that will further contribute to your skills and learning as a GM SP.
Does it cost anything?
Training will be provided by GM at no cost to the SP. When SPs are required to attend training and/or activities at the Clinical Skills Centre, GM can, in special circumstances, assist in transportation to and from the venue, and reimburse costs where appropriate. Refreshments will also be provided during these occasions.
When would I start?
GM’s first intake of medical students was in January 2007, and subsequent intakes occur yearly. Medical students would need to be practising their skills throughout the year in various role-play sessions. SPs will also be needed regularly for a wide number of physical examinations.
Where would I go to work?
GM has two sites, Wollongong and Shoalhaven. SPs could work at either of those sites (or both). All training sessions and activities will take place at GM’s Clinical Skills Centres which have purpose built facilities in both locations.
How available would I have to be?
GM prefers that SPs be able to make a commitment for a length of time to participate in the program. This is not a full time commitment but may initially be training sessions, and availability to participate in clinical role-plays or examinations. This is to ensure that SPs who are trained are able to utilise and practise the knowledge and skills developed. GM aims to establish a pool of skilled and experienced SPs who will be available on an ongoing basis to work with GM students.
If you are interested but have limited availabilities please indicate as such on your Expression of Interest Form (EOI).
Do I need to have an illness, or a particular medical history?
No. GM is seeking a diverse group of SPs which can include different cultural groups, ages, ethnicities and medical histories. We encourage everyone to apply via the Expression of Interest Form. SPs do not need to have any existing illnesses, conditions or symptoms to participate as SPs with GM.
Do I have to provide my whole medical history and/or health records?
As a GM SP you do not need to provide any existing personal medical or health records if you don’t want to. However, if you are able to provide a brief medical history of any existing conditions, it may allow us to better accommodate your needs, as well as the needs of the students. We aim to have a large pool of GM SPs with a database identifying different circumstances, needs and availability of Simulated Patients to match the annual curriculum needs..
Do I receive treatment for my existing (or new) illnesses?
No. The role of a Simulated Patient is to assist students in the development of their communication and examination skills. The medical students will not be treating SPs, prescribing medication or making diagnoses outside the simulated role-play situation.
After completion of their role-play session, all SPs will attend a debriefing prior to leaving GM:
- To ensure SPs ‘de-role’ prior to their departure from GM
- To allow SP to provide and receive feedback about the session
- For the Program to identify and record issues that may need to be addressed for SPs
- To ensure that the SP is aware that they have participated in a role-play situation only and that they have not relied upon or do not intend to act on any assessment or diagnosis mentioned in the simulation
- To make referrals for actual medical assessment and treatment by a proper medical practitioner if required
What would happen if an abnormality was found or I became unwell during a session?In the event of any abnormalities being detected during participation in an examination session, you will be notified that you may need to seek medical advice. This will be privately discussed with you and if you agree, an appropriate letter to your own GP will be provided by the tutor. You will also receive a copy for your own records.
A consent form will be completed on joining the program which allows appropriate contact with your own local GP in the unlikely event that this situation occurs. This is optional however and you may choose to follow up any findings yourself - a letter will be given to you from the tutor of the session.
If the situation involves an injury or is of a more urgent nature, you will receive first aid, then an ambulance will be called as per UOW Emergency Response Procedures, a copy of which can be made available to you if you wish.
What happens to my personal details?
All personal details and information that is provided by GM SPs remains confidential and is handled in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act (NSW) 1998 and Health Records and Information Privacy Act (NSW) 2002. It will only be used by the Simulated Patient Program Coordinator to determine and assist your initial and ongoing participation in the Program.
What if I change my mind or my circumstances change?
If you have put in your EOI or you begin the program but decide that you no longer wish to participate, please discuss with GM SP Program Coordinator. There may be a minimum commitment you can make or you may need more flexible arrangements. We will do our best to consider and accommodate your needs.
How do I benefit from being a Simulated Patient?
There are a number of benefits in volunteering to contribute to the development of medical students. Participants in similar programs around the world have commonly identified:
- Meeting new people and making new friends
- Contributing to the education and skill development of future medical practitioners
- Having an opportunity to give something back to the community
- Developing new personal skills
- Being involved in new and growing areas of health education
What if I know someone else who is interested in being a GM Simulated Patient?
Ask them to contact the GM's SP Program Coordinator directly.
How do I sign up to be a GM Simulated Patient?
If you decide you would like apply to become a SP, you need to:
- Read all necessary information provided by GM
- Complete GM SP Expression of Interest
- Return it to the SP Program Coordinator
What happens after I have signed up to be a GM Simulated Patient?
You will be contacted by the SP Program Coordinator.
Once you have received notification of acceptance into the SP Program you will need to:
- Complete – GM SP Code of Conduct
- Complete – Informed Consent
- Complete – Consent for Sharing of Medical Information
- Your details will be kept at GM, and you will receive regular information regarding the program
- Prior to any participation in student learning activities, you will attend an initial training session
- GM staff will contact you to advise of when you are needed, in accordance with your availabilities
How do I find out more?
If you have read all the provided information, and would like to find out more please contact the Simulated Patient Program Coordinator at the campus nearest you. Alternatively, you can post or email your Expression of Interest directly.