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December monthly focus: Simulated patient actors

In the last few weeks, four national reports on the NHS have placed emphasis on communication with patients, their relatives and the wider health care team.

These reports are:

  • The Francis Report
  • Ann Clwyd report: A review of the NHS Hospitals Complaints System
  • Keogh report: Transforming urgent and emergency care in England
  • CQC: Hospital Intelligent Monitoring.

There is also specific emphasis on response to complaints, appraisal, openness, duty of candor, feedback from patients and their families, listening, kindness and empathy.

So, how is this related to simulated patient actors?

Our Trust has a simulated patient (sp) programme which has been in existence for over ten years. It is really in the last five years that it has developed into what it is today. The programme assists in educating, training, supporting and nurturing all staff at all levels.

Our sp actors range from six months to 83 years old. They are able to portray any scenario that we give them and provide feedback, which means that a unique perspective is captured from them, in their role as a patient, as a relative or as a professional.

Using the skills of these specially trained sp actors, either with our experienced facilitators or with you facilitating, or a mix of both - we tailor learning events for teams, groups or individuals where staff can practise communication techniques in real-life situations. This can be one to one, small group, lecture style or forum theatre formats.

This enables you or your staff to practice new strategies for dealing with challenging situations at the same time, experimenting with these skills in a safe environment. It is unique and highly effective.

Commonly asked questions

What do we use sp actors for?

  • Training in generic and specific communication skills
  • Exams
  • Interviews
  • 360° appraisals
  • DVD video clips and productions
  • Systems and process feedback (mystery shop)

Who uses us?

Undergraduate and postgraduate health care professionals (medical and nursing staff, allied health care professionals and support staff).

What skills can be taught and demonstrated?

  • Communication - generic and specific skills
  • Communication approaches - face to face, telephone or larger audience skills
  • History taking and physical examination skills
  • Interview skills and selection
  • Larger scale mock ups.

What roles are sp actors able to play?

Patients, relatives and carers, health care (and non health care) professionals, audiences - in fact anyone!

What are the options for using sp actors?

You facilitate, we facilitate or we combine your skills with ours and co-facilitate.

How can I get more information?

If you would like to use our service, we can come to you. We can come to your department, ward or office. Our simulators and facilitators travel across the south of England to attend training sessions, interviews and examinations in London, Chichester, Dorchester, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Poole and the Isle of Wight – or wherever you are. Alternatively we can set up whatever you wish using our facilities in clinical skills.

If you have an idea, or you would like us to suggest some ideas, come and talk to us. You can contact:

Gill Clarkson simp@uhs.nhs.uk 023 8120 6487
Carrie Hamilton carrie.hamilton@uhs.nhs.uk 023 8120 6512
Sarah Wilding sarah.wilding@uhs.nhs.uk 023 8120 6512

Posted on Tuesday 10 December 2013