The pillars of well-constructed simulated patient programs: A qualitative study with experienced educators

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Introduction: The inclusion of simulated patients (SPs) in health professional education is growing internationally. However, there is limited evidence for best practice in SP methodology. This study investigated how experienced SP educators support SPs in providing SP-based education for health professional students. Methods: Experienced SP educators were identified via relevant professional associations, peer-reviewed publications, and peer referral. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted via telephone. Data were analyzed independently by three researchers using principles of inductive thematic analysis. Results: Four themes were identified that represent the key structural components of SP programs considered by educators seeking to optimize learning for health professional students in SP programs: managing SPs by operationalizing an effective program, selecting SPs by rigorously screening for suitability, preparing SPs by educating for a specific scenario, and directing SPs by leading safe and meaningful interactions. Within these components, subthemes were described, with considerable variation in approaches. Conclusions: Key structural components to SP programs were consistently described by experienced SP educators who operationalize them. A framework has been proposed to assist educators in designing high-quality SP programs that support SPs and learners. Future research is required to evaluate and refine this framework and other evidence-based resources for SP educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1167
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2017


  • simulation
  • Simulation methods
  • simulation-based education

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