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Use of Standardized Patients to Enhance a Psychiatry Clerkship

Hall, Molly J. MD; Adamo, Graceanne MA, CMA; McCurry, Lisa MD; Lacy, Timothy MD; Waits, Wendi MD; Chow, Jennifer MD; Rawn, Lisa MA; Ursano, Robert J. MD

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Changes in psychiatric health care delivery driven by such major shifts as deinstitutionalization, community-based care, and managed care have greatly altered the educational milieu for third-year psychiatry clerkships. Students may be assigned exclusively to alcohol and substance abuse treatment units, consultation-liaison services, or outpatient clinics, and may not have as broad an exposure as is desirable to patients with a variety of psychiatric illnesses. The authors describe a pilot course they developed in 2001, Clinical Psychiatric Assessment and Diagnosis, for third-year medical students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences medical school. The course uses standardized patients (SPs) to help students gain broader clinical experience. In psychiatry, a growing body of literature supports the acceptability, reliability, and validity of objective structured clinical examination assessment using SPs for medical students. Only a few articles report the use of SPs to primarily teach psychiatry instead of evaluating student proficiency in clinical psychiatry. Since this course was developed, the National Board of Medical Examiners announced that all medical students will be required to pass a clinical skills test in order to practice medicine, beginning with the class of 2005. The examination will use SPs modeling different clinical scenarios. In light of this change, many medical schools may have to reevaluate and possibly revamp their curriculums to insure sufficient acquisition of clinical skills in different specialties. The use of SPs in psychiatry could provide an effective, primary clinical teaching experience to address this new requirement as well.

© 2004 Association of American Medical Colleges


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