So, I have a rather unusual but very rewarding acting job. I’m a standardized patient (SP). Many medical universities through out the US, and even the world, have begun incorporating clinical skills training in their MD, PHMD, PHD and PA programs.
These programs hire actors, at least in NYC, to portray all different kinds of characters in all sorts of scenarios. Student doctors role play with the SPs allowing them to practice their communication skills. In many of these programs the student doctors get personal, face to face feedback and coaching.
I play all different kinds of women – drug addicts, alcoholics, victims of domestic violence, attempted suicides and so on.
Character back story is where the heart of this work lay. How you share the facts of the case is informed by your history.
Today, I worked with three first year medical students. I was playing a woman whose mother died of breast cancer, whose sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer and who herself, just days ago, “thought” she felt a lump.
The student doctors all looked panic stricken when I told each of them that my sister was staying with me so she could see top notch oncologists. They scrambled for the right words – for a mix of empathy, encouragement, support – each wanted to instill a sense of hope without being entirely unrealistic.
The degrees of success varied greatly between the three students, but each were so very eager for feedback. They wanted know how every word they said, every gesture they made, impacted me.
How lucky am I to be part of so many student doctors medical training. Working as a standardized patient is extremely gratifying. It’s one way I’m “Acting for Good”.