By Kate Hunger
First-semester respiratory care students had the opportunity in November to perform their first examination of a living, breathing patient during standardized patient encounters.
“This is a hands on with a real live person—no mannequins,” said Assistant Professor–Clinical Thomas Stokes, M.A., RRT. “It’s preclinical. This is their first semester in the program. They are in labs and doing didactic learning.”
Although standardized patient encounters are part of medical school curricula nationwide, most respiratory care programs do not offer them, Stokes said.
“We are one of very few—maybe the only—respiratory care programs in the nation that has standardized patient exams for respiratory students,” he said.
The standardized patients are hired by the University to present with symptoms of chest pain or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Students are required conduct a thorough interview and physical chest exam.
“As soon as there is a knock on the door, they simulate coughing, being a little short of breath,” Stokes said. “They play it off really well.”
The standardized patient encounters took place in the HEB Skills Center. Afterward, the bachelor’s and master’s students received evaluations from the patients and the faculty who observed from behind two-way mirrors. Students also scored their own performances.
Respiratory care faculty have published their findings about the standardized patient encounters, Stokes said, noting that the impact of the preclinical simulation is clear.
“I think it takes a little of the edge off of the anxiety level for the first-time clinical experience for these students,” Stokes said. “We are an advanced degree program. We set high expectations for our students. At the same time, we really prepare them.”