For New Hires, Every Day a Sick Day

Dr. Aaron Bernard of North Haven, left, clinical skills director at the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, chats with Jean Kappes, one of the 24 state residents who have been hired to be Quinnipiac's first standardized patients who will work with medical, nursing, and health sciences students.
Dr. Aaron Bernard of North Haven, left, clinical skills director at the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University, chats with Jean Kappes, one of the 24 state residents who have been hired to be Quinnipiac's first standardized patients who will work with medical, nursing, and health sciences students. Photo by Anna Brundage

Regardless of how far-ranging your résumé may be, it likely doesn't include this job: Twenty-four Connecticut residents have been hired to be the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University's first "pseudo patients."

The standardized patients, who range in age from 22 to 80 and come from every ethnic background, race, and gender, are in the process of learning what a typical medical interview and physical examination entail. They will eventually evaluate medical students for their ability to ask the correct questions and perform physical examination maneuvers correctly.

Aaron Bernard, clinical skills director at the School of Medicine at Quinnipiac's North Haven campus, said the standardized patients were hired in mid-November. He said many are retired, some are professional or theatrical actors, "and some are people simply between jobs."

Bernard said use of simulated patients has increased dramatically since 2004, when a clinical component of the United States Medical Licensing Examination included standardized patient cases. (He joked that one important early milestone in the use of simulated patients was when Kramer played a patient in an episode of Seinfeld).

Quinnipiac's standardized patients will begin meeting with medical school students in January and could work up to 20 hours per week. The School of Nursing and School of Health and Sciences will also be using the standardized patients.

Bernard said the medical students "are excited to be working with real people, real patients, diagnosing everything from sports injuries to heart attacks."

He said the medical students also enjoy the interaction with humans, instead of robotic patients.

"There is no substitute for real patients," Bernard said, "but this is the next best thing."

The idea of using pseudo patients is not new, as medical schools such as UConn and other prestigious schools have used the program for years.

Bernard said while he is "sure we will lose some of our first class of pseudo patients through attrition or because they find other jobs, etc., we're hoping that many will stay with us and become regulars in the program."

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