First-semester nursing students may find physical assessment overwhelming and challenging for various reasons. There is an abundance of products and books available to help explain assessment, as well as ways to teach students how to perform a physical assessment, however, sometimes these resources may be overwhelming and ineffective. Students have been found to memorize a “script”, of what they should see or hear when performing assessment checkoffs and just going through the motions of the process, instead of performing and noting what they see and/or hear. Manikins are an instrumental part of the simulation experience for nursing students, however, it is obvious that there are limits to manikins. The ability to have real communication, perform true eye, oral, range-of-motion exams and more, are also some of the pros of utilizing real “patients” in place of manikins. Standardized patients (SPs) have been a great way to help the student get real-life experience in a controlled environment. This entry is specially written for schools whose first semester students may not go out into the clinical setting and instead utilize various simulation resources.
Standardized patients give the students opportunities to perform all aspects of the physical assessment including practice communicating with patients during the patients’ health history interview. The students can work on their interviewing skills regarding patient medical history, surgical history and medications as well as their therapeutic communication and patient education. The students have an opportunity to see what it is like to talk to patients from different backgrounds and experience something outside of their classmates or computerized clinical setting.
It is important to ensure that standardized patients are prepared to play the role of a patient to give the students the best clinical opportunity possible. Some of the keys to ensuring a successful standardized patient experience for first-semester nursing students are below.
Recruiting is a major part of the success of a standardized patient program. Flyers are useful however it is the placement of the flyers that have proved to produce results. Placing flyers within the communities in which you wish to recruit from is vital. Churches, older adult centers, YMCA’s, student unions and the school new letter have been the best places to recruit potential participants.
When making a flyer, it is important to keep it brief, yet provide enough information to the potential participant. It should include a flashy heading announcing that you are looking for participants/volunteers for the Standardized Patient Program. It’s important to make note of what the program is as well as the dates and times the program is running, and if there is an incentive for the participants’ time. Including a contact person name, phone number, and email so that they know how to sign up and whom to contact for additional information is vital.