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Standardized Patients & Hybrid Simulation

iCELS is the home of the internationally recognized UMass Medical School Standardized Patient Program

iCELS is the home of the internationally recognized UMass Medical School Standardized Patient Program. Our program's extensive workforce — more than 100 acting patients — represents the demographics of today's patient population, with standardized (or "simulated") patients ranging in age from adolescents to active senior citizens. The SPP began in 1982 and has continued to develop in size and strength, to read about the history of the program click here.

Standardized patients are lay people trained to simulate a broad range of medical conditions in realistic and consistent patient encounters. They are trained to effectively act as teachers and evaluators of medical students, physician assistant candidates, nursing students, residents and practicing clinicians.  

In these simulated patient encounters, learners are provided the opportunity to practice skills in a positive and non-threatening setting. The length and complexity of an encounter varies depending on the level of the learner and the learning objectives of the session. The purpose and objectives of an exercise can range from pure formative education to implementation of summative evaluation instruments for the assessment of communication and clinical competence.  Standardized patients frequently team with clinical faculty in high and low stakes examinations, small group teaching sessions, and one-on-one specialized clinical electives to assist learners with identified weaknesses in clinical skills. 

Our Standardized Patients are carefully trained to:

  • Portray and replicate manifestations of several medical conditions.
  • Role play communication challenges.
  • Evaluate and document learner performance by providing written and verbal feedback. 
  • Deliver feedback in accordance with training in the Master Interview Rating Scale, a validated instrument that examines twenty key communication skills.
  • Provide full physical examinations and many are trained for the breast, pelvic and genitourinary exams.

Our Standardized patients are available for trainings within our Worcester iCELS facility, and can travel to other organizations throughout New England.  Our patients can provide patient role play, evaluation and educational training film services to learners at hospitals, academic centers and inter-professional programs.

Continuous Quality Improvement

In order to maintain our high standard of educational excellence, our patients undergo consistent case and scenario training, receive checklist assessment training, and receive ongoing developmental feedback.  Video recording of simulations in our iCELS facility allows standardized patients to review their work and self-assess, and allows for SP academic leadership to ensure standardization and quality of patient performances. 

The iCELS SPP was established at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1982.  The utilization of the standardized patient as an evaluative and instructional tool has evolved as an integral and mandatory component in all four years of the medical school curriculum – not only at UMass Medical School but at medical schools across Massachusetts.




SP Applicants