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Pretend patients: Billings medical school students work in examination room with actors

Pretend patients: Billings medical school students work in examination room with actors
Posted at 8:20 AM, Sep 08, 2023

BILLINGS — Thursday morning at Rocky Vista University Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine, medical students and paid actors worked together in exam rooms for the first time in the Billings schools' short history.

“We have these actors that come in, and they pretend to be patients. And they have their pretend illnesses or ailments,” RVU student Mike Momany said. “It's a really cool opportunity for us to experience that when we don’t really know a lot yet without putting any patients in harm's way."

Pretend patients: Billings medical school students work in examination room with actors
Standardized Patient gets makeup applied to make it appear as though there is a rash on her back.

Timothy Sanders was one of the 24 actors, called Standardized Patients, who was given a script and had makeup put on his upper back to make it appear as though he had a rash.

“The first thing medical students have to learn to do is interact with real live patients,” Sanders, a retired physician assistant, said. “I’m doing it mainly because I feel that the medical students need the best training possible since they’re going to be taking care of me when I get older.”

Pretend patients: Billings medical school students work in examination room with actors
Standardized Patient waits in exam room for student at RVU Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine to assess her.

The students had 20 minutes in the examination rooms to meet with their assigned patients. They were observed through the cameras in each exam room as they went through the steps to diagnose the Standardized Patients.

Pretend patients: Billings medical school students work in examination room with actors
Students observed as they work with Standardized Patients.

“It is a little nerve-wracking, but it’s also good that we get a lot of practice. And that our professors have been willing to help us so that we can have the confidence going in, as well,” medical student Alexis Albers said. "It's really nice that the people in the community are willing to invest in our education, and help us be better doctors eventually so it’s exciting.”

The Standardized Patients assess the students and give them feedback in one-on-one sessions to help the students build their communication and clinical skills.