Patient involvement

There are currently two types of ways to get involved. If you are a patient and willing to be examined, 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 that students can practice skills on 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 2 teaching and respiratory examination (new to programme in 2016/17)

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.

Patients with persisting features of a long term respiratory condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis (ILD) help us teach respiratory examination in six sessions held in March each year.

Student assessments in Years 3, 4 and Year 5

Real patients are used in these examinations 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.

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.    

What is the time commitment?

Each session takes 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.   

Will I get paid?

The roles are voluntary therefore there is no payment to cover your time. However, 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?

Teaching and assessments 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 campus University site. Similar assessments are held for Year 4 and 5 students at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital site. A 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 beforehand, send you written information, and you are fully briefed on the day of your session and debriefed afterwards. 

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. 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. We are looking for people from all backgrounds. 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. 

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:

Patient Volunteer Administrator
Tel: 01782 679718

Or Dr Alison Irvine, Teaching Fellow and Patient Volunteer Co-ordinator

Keele University Medical School
Clinical Education Centre (CEC)
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
Royal Stoke University Hospital
Newcastle Road

Patient Volunteer Team based at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital site:

Led by: Nancy Moreton, Clinical Practice Instructor

Assisted by: Marlene Jones and Carol Roberts
Tel: 01743 261248 or 01743 492505

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:


Phone: 01782 679575 or 01782 679718

Write to: Skills Team, Keele University School of Medicine
Clinical Education Centre (FF17)
University Hospitals of North Midlands
Royal Stoke University Hospital
London Road

We will send you an application form and a copy of our Simulated Patient Handbook for your information.