Information for interested SP applicants
Qualities of Penn Med SPs
The following are skills that we require of all of our SPs:
Reliability - If you agree to participate in a program, we expect you to be at all agreed upon trainings and performances on time. If you leave us in the lurch, don’t show, or cancel on us after training, we will not use you again. If you are consistently late for performances and/or trainings, we will not use you again. Please carefully note scheduled times and dates in your calendars as soon as you agree to work with us on a project.
Memorization – We try our best to send you your training materials ahead of time. This gives you the opportunity to read, memorize, and note any questions about the case before the training. Each standardized patient must provide exactly the appropriate information in response to questions from examinees (hence the name standardized patient). There are certain bits of very specific case information that you will have to learn verbatim, as if you were learning a script; other times you will have to memorize general facts about the person you are portraying.
Simulation – Most cases require simulation of some sort. Simulation could be emotional, such as having to cry or get angry, or physical, such as a pain in your stomach or having to flinch when a certain area is touched. With that said, it is important for you to know that not all of our SPs are actors. When we contact you to ask you to participate in a case, we will provide details as to what the case entails. If a proposed case doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, tell us. We will never hold that against you. The small group cases in particular require the most advanced acting skills. Students can call “time out” or “time in” at any point in the interview. They could call “time in” at the point just before you started crying, and you would have to be able to back up emotionally to that point in an instant. If you can’t cry on cue, and the case calls for that, simply tell us and we’ll contact you for another case.
Recall – Many of our cases require SPs to fill out a checklist. You will be asked to recall “did the student ask me…” a list of 10-25 questions at the end of each encounter. You will be monitored for accuracy. SPs who are consistently inaccurate will not be considered for casting in future cases that require checklists.
Feedback - Many of our cases provide verbal feedback to students, either one-on-one or in front of a small group of medical students and faculty. We will train you to provide feedback in our approved format, and you will be expected to be able to provide details from the encounter to support your feedback. For example, “You interrupted me several times and that made me feel unimportant.” We expect our SPs always to act collegially toward students, never giving feedback in a scolding tone.
Flexibility – Sometimes we must make last-minute changes to cases. We ask you to be able to incorporate last-minute changes and ask any pertinent questions you need in order to understand and memorize the changes.
Interpersonal skills - Our SP program includes actors, students, homemakers, retirees and other various professionals—in other words, people from all walks of life. Sensitivity to each other is expected. Some programs require large numbers of SPs, with briefing and debriefing taking place in small spaces. Sometimes we have a large amount of information to digest in a short amount of time. In training we often pair SPs up to practice with each other. It is important that you are able to get along well with all different kinds of people.
Professionalism – We consider all of our SPs to be professionals, and expect professional behavior. Working in the medical school and in the clinics, we are privy to information about each other, the students, and sometimes real patients. SPs are expected to protect the privacy of their peers, the students, and patients and to show respect to all others with whom we work closely, including the staff in the clinics and the medical faculty.
Information about working as an SP at Penn
Payscale - You are paid $22 per hour for both trainings and performances. Taxes are deducted before you receive your payment. You will be paid for a minimum of 2 hours of work every time you come for a training or performance. You are not paid for training until after the first performance of a case.
Parking – If you are driving to our Penn Med at Rittenhouse location, please use the parking garage at 1700 South St., on your right between 18th and 17th. (Just after 18th you’ll see a blue awning marked 1740 – the garage is next door.) Note that we can’t pay for your parking if you park elsewhere.
Gyms, Libraries and Transportation - When we first use you as an SP, you become a “temporary occasional” employee of the University of Pennsylvania. Once you have your ID, this entitles you to use the free recreational facilities and libraries on campus and to use the Penn Shuttle transportation and LUCY bus free of charge.
Direct deposit – Available and recommended for all our SPs. You receive your payment more quickly by using this service, especially around the holidays.
Flexible work - Working for Penn SP program won’t pay your rent, but we will give you plenty of advance notice for performances and trainings so that you can schedule other work around us.
We will contact you when we have a case for which you fit. When we contact you to participate in a program, we will provide details about the case format and about training and performance times.
We offer a variety of programs, scheduled to fit the needs of the medical school curriculum:
Some programs require a full 8 hour day of work for the performance, but the performances are scheduled only four days a year, with months between each performance.
Some programs require a 3 or 4 hour day for the performance, and the performances occur twice a week for six to eight weeks.
Some programs require a half day for the performance, and only occur once a year.
One program has performances scheduled at nights and on Saturdays, but this program occurs over six weeks once per year.
All programs require training prior to the performance(s), and training may take anywhere from 2 to 16 hours, depending on the complexity of the program.
Once we have confirmed you for a program, we expect 100% reliability. Canceling on us for any reason jeopardizes your participation in Penn Med SP Program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Standardized Patient?
A standardized patient (SP) is a person trained to portray a patient scenario for the instruction, practice and assessment of the examining, diagnostic, and interpersonal skills of medical students, fellows, residents and other health care professionals. In the health and medical sciences, SPs are used to provide a safe and supportive environment conducive for learning and for standardized assessment. As SP can also be an actual patient who uses their own history and physical exam findings for educational purposes. Sometimes SPs are used to play the part of a medical student, resident or some other non-patient role.
Would I work exclusively with medical students?
Since its inception in 1997, the SP Program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has been expanding yearly to support all levels of medical education. The use of SPs is becoming more common not only in the areas of undergraduate, graduate and continuing medical education, but also in other health disciplines. The Penn Med SP Program is a valued training partner to the Schools of Nursing, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Social Work and others.
How often would I work?
It varies. We have some programs that consist of three to four hours of training plus one two-hour performance. SOme programs have three to six hours of training, and one or two eight-hour performances. Some programs perform every Wednesday or Thursday for several months. Occasionally programs run on Saturday or Sunday. When we call or email and ask you to participate in one of our programs, we will provide details about the case format and about training and performance times.Are physical exams by medical students invasive?
You will never be asked to undergo a breast, pelvic, rectal or genital exam. Things that might be done include, but are not limited to, having your eyes and ears looked in, and your heart examined through touch and listening with a stethoscope. Again, if you are not comfortable with this, let us know. It doesn't mean we won't use you; it just means we won't use you for medical exams.
Will I need to be undressed?
Some of our cases require SPs to be in hospital gowns. SPs always wear appropriate underwear and socks for warmth. Female SPs at Penn always wear bras. When possible, we provide you with a robe to wear, or invite you to bring your own, while you are not being examined. We train you in appropriate draping so you can protect your modesty while you are bieng examined. If you are not comfortable appearing in a hospital gown, let us know and we will only contact you for cases that do not require wearing a gown.
Will my performance be videotaped?
Many of our performances are videotaped. Members of Actor's unions (AEA, SAG of AFTRA) should know that there is usually no conflict with union rules, as tapes are for educational purposes only. Many other programs, such as those done in small groups, are not videotaped.
Submit an Application
Click to submit an application: SP Application