By Tanya Tierney
Nine years of working closely with Simulated Patients (SPs) at Imperial College London meant several things. Firstly, I was constantly amazed by them – they have the unique ability to step into another personality and step out again (i.e. to role and to de-role), and to give such helpful and specific feedback to students. Secondly, I was intrigued by the variety of work that they undertook – as well as SP work at several medical schools, some did role-play for other institutions as well (e.g. the police, legal firms, HR departments). Often they were full-time actors doing medical role-play as well as TV, film, advertising, voice-over and theatre work. They were a fascinating group of people to know and many of them became my good friends.
In January 2012, I arrived in Singapore with the task of building the SP programme for LKCMedicine. With SP methodology much less established in Singapore than the UK and me being new to Singapore, this seemed like a big challenge. I was very lucky to meet like-minded colleagues from
the other medical schools in Singapore (Dr Mara McAdams, Duke-NUS and Dr Suresh Pillai, Yong Loo Lin) and after talking to them about the benefits of the London model - the same bank of SPs working for several medical schools who collaborate and communicate about recruitment, training and best practice - we made a pledge to collaborate to the benefit of all three medical schools.
Tanya conducting a lesson with students and a Simulated Patient
Our current recruitment strategy is largely word-of-mouth, with direct invitations from LKCMedicine going out to existing SPs from LKCMedicine, but forwarded via the other schools, thus solidifying the strong collaborative relationship between the three schools. We have directed them to our website which gives prospective SPs a feel of our curriculum and information about the type of activities we plan for our students. They can read about the Clinical Practice course, look at the detailed FAQs
and download an application form to send the email address dedicated to managing the SPs (SimulatedPatient@ntu.edu.sg). Currently we have just over 50 SPs on our database and this number is growing by the day.
Having worked with a few of the SPs already, for a start in making some videos, I have been impressed by their professionalism and the quality of the roleplays. Many have undergone basic training at the other two medical schools, so our challenge now is to plan further training which builds on this foundation.
The development of the SP programme seemed daunting one year ago. Now I am filled with excitement about getting to know and being amazed by a new group of SPs. And I hope that, like at Imperial, some of them will become my very good friends.