Most medical schools use simulated patients (SPs) for teaching. In this context the authenticity of role play and quality of feedback provided by SPs is of paramount importance. The available literature on SP training mostly addresses instructor led training where the SPs are given direction on their roles. This study focuses on the use of peer and self evaluation as a tool to train SPs.
SPs at the medical school participated in a staff development and training programme which included a) self-assessment of their performance while observing video-tapes of their role play using a structured guide and b) peer group assessment of their performance under tutor guidance. The pre and post training performance in relation to authenticity of role play and quality of feedback was blindly assessed by students and tutors using a validated instrument and the scores were compared. A focus group discussion and a questionnaire assessed acceptability of the training programme by the SPs.
The post-training performance assessment scores were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than the pre-training scores. The degree of improvement in the quality of feedback provided to students was more when compared to the improvement of role play. The acceptability of the training by the SPs was very satisfactory scoring an average of 7.6 out of 10. The majority of the SPs requested the new method of training to be included in their current training programme as a regular feature.
Use of structured self-reflective and peer-interactive, practice based methods of SP training is recommended to improve SP performance. More studies on these methods of training may further refine SP training and lead to improvement of SP performance which in turn may positively impact medical education.