Louisville Magazine

AUG 2015

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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58 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.15 Playing Hurt Life As a standardized Patient I never thought my ability to imitate a standofsh teenager would be an actual job skill. I never imagined I'd have a job as a standardized patient at a medical school either. But here I am, in an exam room downtown on the third foor of the University of Louisville's Health Sciences Center Instruction Building. Tere are 12 exam rooms on the foor, and they look exactly like every other doctor's ofce exam room, except there are small cameras on the wall recording my performance as a patient and each student's performance as a doctor. I'm dressed in a hospital gown that's about three sizes too big with a sports bra and shorts on underneath. Today, I'm 17-year-old Jessica, who has come to see the pediatrician because, in her words, it burns when she pees. In real life, I'm 29. My nature is to make eye contact and small talk. I want to smile and be forthcoming with personal details. But the script I have says not to. I'm to give short answers to the medical students' questions. Especially the ones about my personal life. No acting experience is required to do this job, which is good because I defnitely don't have any. I just try to imagine how my confused character feels right now. I think anyone who has lived through his or her teenage years knows what it's like to think, You're an adult. How could you possibly understand? Leave me alone! When I tell people about the job, they've either never heard of a standardized patient (SP for short) or they've seen that episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer plays a patient who has gonorrhea (no, it's not like that). I hadn't heard of people doing this either until my neighbor, a former SP, told me about it last summer. To put it simply, our job is to help medical students learn how to interact with patients better than textbooks or lectures can. We're the people they have awkward interactions with before they go out into the world and have (hopefully less awkward) interactions with real patients. We're called standardized patients because we follow the same script for each encounter, providing a level playing feld on which to evaluate students' performances. Most medical schools in the United States have worked visits with standardized patients into their curriculum in the last 15 years. (U of L started employing SPs in 2000.) To become doctors, students have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam, part of which involves working with a standardized patient. Tere are about 40 of us working at U of L right now, and because we have to be available during the day, a lot of retired people do this work. Te younger SPs have other jobs and do this as a part-time side gig. Tere are musicians, actors and restaurant workers. And one magazine writer. We get paid $15 an hour. Te workload varies. Some parts of the school year are busier than others, and work also varies depending on what demographic an SP falls into. A man in his 50s can't play a 30-something stay-at-home mom, no matter how good his acting skills are. I've been doing this for about a year. I applied because the job just sounded so By Amy Talbott Illustration by Ian Klarer

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