'Patients' who act sick valuable as teaching tool
In recent years, standardized patients have played a larger role in the training of health professionals, expanding into fields such as dentistry, pharmacy and physical therapy. "At a minimum, it gives students more confidence" after working with standardized patients, said Karen Lewis, president of the Association of Standardized Patient Educators. "When they walk into an exam room for the first time with a (real) patient, they're not nervous or worried about what to say. They already know that." But the ability of doctors to communicate with patients and be able to elicit the information they need for a proper diagnosis can save lives. "All mistakes, when you really drill down to what caused them, it's a communications problem," Lewis said.
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