There are currently two types of ways to get involved; as a Patient Volunteer or a Simulated Patient.
We welcome new patients from all walks of life, in particular those with a BAME background as such patient groups are presently under-represented.
If you are a patient and willing to be examined, or talk about your medical condition(s), you may be able to act as a Patient Volunteer. Patient Volunteers are involved in classroom teaching and assessment, and have a particular condition which is being taught or assessed. In a teaching context, patients may if they wish give relevant information about their own medical history and/or offer students feedback about their performance.
Simulated Patients are actors who take part in role play during teaching, assessment and admissions. They are used to represent a patient and to help students learn communication skills in a controlled and safe environment.
Patients As Educators
WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
Each Patient Volunteer decides what sorts of activities they wish to support. This is a summary of our present programme:
YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2 PRACTICE IN COMMUNICATION SKILLS (NEW IN 2020/2021)
Patients with a long term medical problem talk to a pair of medical students about their medical condition(s) and its impact upon their health in a pre-booked telephone or video interview. All the arrangements are carried out by our Patient Volunteer Team based at the Clinical Education Centre, Royal Stoke Hospital site. Patients are told the date and time of their interview and the names of the two students. The video platform used is accuRx Fleming which is well used nationally by GPs for patient video consultations. It is NHS-approved and secure.
Patients need to have a smart phone or iPad/computer, and basic skills in using this, and access to email. Patients can take part as little, or often, as they wish. Participation is voluntary and they can withdraw at any time.
YEAR 2 TEACHING OF PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
Patients with a persisting heart murmur, heart rhythm disorder or peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication) are helping us teach examination of the cardiovascular system. Six sessions are held in late February/early March each year.
Patients with persisting features of a stroke or condition such as Parkinson’s Disease, Neuropathy or Multiple Sclerosis are helping us teach examination of the peripheral nervous system. Three sessions are held towards the end of May each year.
In addition, patients with persisting features of a long term respiratory condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis (ILD) have helped us teach respiratory examination to medical students (until 2019/2020) and now do so within the Physician Associate programme.
Since 2019/2020, patients with physical findings in their hands, lower arms, face, neck, or lower legs help in the teaching of ‘general’ examination skills. In addition they help students practice vital signs; features like pulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature.
STUDENT ASSESSMENTS IN YEARS 3, 4, AND 5
Real patients are used in assessments to test students’ physical examination skills; they are not required to take a history. Patients do not mark the students’ performance; experienced clinical examiners do that. Patients help us in a morning or afternoon session and are examined usually 7–8 times in all, taking turns with a paired patient so no-one gets tired or stiff.
These examinations are mainly held in December, April, May, and June.
THE PHYSICIAN ASSOCIATE COURSE (NEW IN 2018/2019)
Patient Volunteers with long term cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological conditions and general examination findings help in the teaching and assessment of physical examination skills at various times of the year. The roles are similar to those in medical student teaching.
Some of our patients choose to also be involved in ‘PACES’; these are postgraduate examinations for those training to be consultant physicians. Kath Jones, based at the Haywood Hospital, co-ordinates these.
In addition, some patient volunteers serve on our Patient Working Group. This meets 3–4 times a year and gives us advice and feedback on our present processes and activities and future plans.
In past years, we have held a Patient ‘Thank You’ Event on Keele campus to recognise and celebrate how patients contribute to our programme.
In 2020/2021, to protect those with ongoing health problems, we are unable to bring Patient Volunteers into classrooms for routine teaching. However, our new video interview and telephone interview programme gives existing and new Patient Volunteers important opportunities to support the learning of junior medical students.
WHAT IS THE TIME COMMITMENT?
Our new remote consulting approach will take 30–60 minutes per session. You can complete as many or as few sessions as you like, availability permitting. Any sessions carried out at the Clinical Education Centre usually take around half a day. Patients opt to do what they wish, and are able to do, depending on their health at the time. Not all conditions are assessed each year so the work can be periodic and, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, are being limited to remote consultations for the time being.
WILL I GET PAID?
The roles are voluntary therefore there is no payment to cover your time. However, if travel to one of our buildings is required, we organise and pay for return taxi journeys and provide tea/coffee and biscuits, plus a buffet lunch for those helping with assessments.
WHERE WILL THE VOLUNTEERING ROLE TAKE PLACE?
The remote consultations will take place from your own home or location of your choice. When in-house teaching and assessments resume they are held at the Clinical Education Centre (which is off the A34 on the Royal Stoke Hospital site) or in the David Weatherall Building on the main Keele University campus site. Similar assessments are held for Year 4 and 5 students at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital site, Mytton Oak Road, in the Learning Centre; their separate administrative team oversees recruitment of these patients.
WILL I BE TRAINED?
No formal training is required—this is deliberate as we want our patients to be "real" not professionalised. We talk through what is involved on the phone or via email beforehand, send you written information, and you are fully briefed on the day of your session and debriefed afterwards. Patients taking part in video interviews will have a test video link to familiarise them with the process and test out the connection and audio-visual quality.
WHO ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
Anybody who is interested in helping us and who and has persisting physical signs of the common conditions that we use in our teaching or assessment programmes. For telephone or video interviews, patients with any significant long term medical condition can take part. We are looking for people from all backgrounds.
Some people with long term problems stay on our database for many years; others have a problem for only a short time so are only used once or twice. The time commitment is not great, and we book sessions well in advance so that those who work and want to help can arrange time off or their shifts accordingly.
For assessments it is important that you can be the same with each student to give each one a fair chance, and for you not to talk about your involvement with any students you may encounter before the exam takes place. For video interviews we need patients who are comfortable using a smart phone or iPad/computer and who can also use email.
HOW TO APPLY
If you would like further information about becoming a Patient Volunteer, please contact:
Patient Volunteer Team based at the Clinical Education Centre, Royal Stoke Hospital site:
Or Dr Alison Irvine, Lecturer and Patient Volunteer Co-ordinator
Keele University School of Medicine
Clinical Education Centre (CEC)
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
Royal Stoke University Hospital
Patient Volunteer Team based at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital site:
Led by: Nancy Moreton, Clinical Practice Instructor
What is a Simulated Patient?
A Simulated Patient (SP) is an individual trained to role play the part of a patient to help medical students and healthcare professionals become more skilled by developing their communication and diagnostic abilities. Simulated Patients are also used in assessment of these abilities in exams.
What does a Simulated Patient do?
Simulated Patients are most commonly used in Keele University’s undergraduate medical course in scenarios for the development and assessment of student medical interviewing skills. Simulated Patients are also being used in physical examination and procedural skills training and assessment, sometimes involving models of body parts. Keele’s Simulated Patients are frequently used by other schools within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and also by organisations outside the University.
All of our Simulated Patients are equally trained to a consistently high level and are developed on an on-going basis as part of their career as an SP. This enables them to become fully competent in adopting the role of a health service user and providing objective and appropriate feedback to the students.
A Simulated Patient allows student healthcare professionals in a safe environment to:
- Practise asking a patient for information for making accurate diagnoses and managing patient care;
- Practise physical examination and procedural skills;
- Explore ways to give information including breaking bad news;
- Practise sharing decision-making with patients;
- Practise communicating with individuals from British ethnic minority groups about health issues;
- Make patients feel comfortable about talking about difficult issues;
- Get feedback from the patient’s point of view on how they did.
Who are Simulated Patients?
Simulated Patients are recruited from everywhere and anywhere! The Medical School aims to have a pool of simulators representative of the ages, genders and ethnic mix of the real patient population.
Our Simulated Patient may have been a patient or carer in the past, be a professional actor or interested in making a difference to the care that service users receive in the UK. They generally do not have a health professional background to ensure they have a lay person’s viewpoint and language.
What qualities do you need to become a Simulated Patient?
- Enjoy working with others and especially liking to help students learn;
- Have great communication skills and be effective at giving and receiving constructive and objective feedback;
- Have an imagination that can develop realistic characters from paper-based scenarios;
- Be able to empathise with people’s feelings.
You do not need to be an actor, or know anything about healthcare provision in the UK. We will provide you with all the training you need. We value the knowledge and insight that your life experiences bring.
How do I apply?
You need to contact the Skills Team, expressing your interest, using the following contact details:
Write to: Skills Team, Keele University School of Medicine
Clinical Education Centre (FF17)
University Hospitals of North Midlands
Royal Stoke University Hospital
We will send you an application form and a copy of our Simulated Patient Handbook for your information.