MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're talking about health and wellness and in order to keep ourselves healthy and well, what's one of the things we might do?
MS. ALICIA WHITE
We're going to test your acuity. So if you just want to stand near the door here, we're going to be using this chart on the wall...
Why, go to the doctor, of course, for our regular exam or checkup, like say for our vision.
Can you cover your eye and read the smallest line of print that's visible to you?
MS. JESSICA RODRIGUEZ
But unlike the eye exam we heard before the break during Justin Purvis' story, the eye exam you're hearing now...
Okay, can you cover the other eye now and if you can see the same line, can you try to read it backwards this time?
Well, this exam has an instructor.
MR. RAY ALCALA
So the part about the read the same line backward, so why backward?
Because I might have memorized it from the first time and, like, will recognize the letters so they saw it. So try to change it up a bit.
But not just any instructor. We're in a mock examination room at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The doctor and patient you're hearing are actually first year medical students and the guy asking about reading the same line backward, isn't a physician on GW's faculty nor is he a fellow med student. No, this guy...
My name is Ray Alcala.
...is a standardized patient instructor or SPI. How do you describe to people what it is you do?
Basically, I explain that I instruct medical students, usually first, second year medical students on physical exam systems. So, you know, HENT or pulmonary cardiovascular, abdominal, musco-skeletal, neurology.
So that explains the eye part of SPI as for the SP, you might've heard how medical schools often use people, actors as well as others to play the role of a patient and act out various conditions and situations for medical students to practice on, well these people are known as standardized patients.
I started out as a standardized patient, simulating roles and then these programs starting cropping up where standardized patients became instructors. And I just found that fascinating to learn what it was that all these students were performing on me all these years and to be able to give them feedback on what they were doing.
G.W.'s standardized patient instructor program cropped up pretty recently. It's just in its second year now.
MS. JENNIFER OWENS
Questions, concerns, issues, fears, gripes, feedback? Um-hum.
And Jennifer Owens...
I'm one of the SP educators here at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
...who I met recently in a busy classroom, is kind of the standardized patient instructor, instructor, I guess you could say. She trains SPI's like Ray Alcala on G.W.'s physical diagnosis checklist.
Basically what we feel needs to be incorporated into a head to toe physical exam...
With a focus on technique. So in a mock exam room like the one we were just in, a fourth year student helps first years with the more nitty gritty medical details.
So if a student has a question like where is the specific lymph node located or why am I doing this? The fourth year is there to give that information.
But if a student has a question like, for instance...
How do I use the otoscope? More of a technique question. Well, that's what the SPI is there for.
And as Ray Alcala explained to me after his session with the students, the SPI is there for something else too. I also got the feeling that you were sort of bringing in a patients perspective. You mentioned something about don't forget, everyone has a different eye level.
Yeah, that's very true. I mean, because a lot of times, students as doctors don't really realize the different issues they have to deal with and we were just covering a visual fields are checking their peripheral vision. And I have had really tall students checking vision fields but they're thinking of where their fields would be for them, that they'll do the maneuver and they're not getting the results that they're expecting and I can say, oh, and by the way when you notice the results were a little off, consider the fact that we only have a height differential. And I think that they appreciate that perspective.
Between his stints as a standardized patient and standardized instructor, Alcala says he's managed to create a fulltime gig, for others, though?
MR. JOSH DRUMRIGHT
I'm Josh Drumright.
He's more of a part time thing.
Yeah, so I come in for these things because they're in the evening and easy for me to do around my day job.
What is your day job?
I do background investigations for a federal agency.
But part time or no, just like Alcala, Drumright says he relishes the opportunity to teach medical students.
You feel like you have a hands on, interactive important role in medical school and it's a growing part of medical school. More and more medical schools are doing programs like this. It's fairly new for G.W. to have just regular people have such a large influence on the teaching process.
And while Ray Alcala agrees, this involvement of what lay people, I guess you could say, is a positive thing, he says it's not without its challenges, such as gaining the students trust.
I think a lot of students will look at, oh, well, you know, he's not a doctor, he's not a fourth year medical student, why should I believe what he has to say? But I think that if you demonstrate that you're confident and you speak the language they speak, all of a sudden, they open up to you.
But Alcala says it kind of works the other way too, being an SPI helps him look at these budding physicians in a whole other way.
You know how many years and how much training they go through but when you work with the students, the way that we get to work with the students, you know that they're real people and they're great people and I just have such great appreciation for what they do and what they have to go through to be able to care for all of us.
You can learn more about standardized patients, standardized patient instructors and the National Association dedicated to educating them on our website, metroconnection.org.
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