Simulated patients (SPs) are individuals who have learned to realistically portray patient roles in health professional education. Program recommendations are increasing for simulation programs, and as key stakeholders, SPs' perspectives seem underrepresented. The aim of the study was to explore the experiences, perspectives, and practices of SPs to gain insights on topics of importance to SPs and inform program recommendations.
An interpretivist research paradigm and qualitative design were adopted. Eighteen SPs participated in 2 focus groups that were audio recorded, transcribed, and deidentified. Three researchers completed inductive thematic analysis. Institutional ethical approval was obtained.
Three themes represented the different elements of SP practice: becoming and being a SP, preparing for a SP role, and performing a SP role. Simulated patients identify as educated specialists with unique responsibilities and attributes. Simulated patients are committed to representing the perspectives of real patients, while simultaneously supporting learners and educators. Simulated patients can feel unprepared to perform a role but have innovated responsive strategies.
Simulated patients considered 3 primary aspects to their practice and shared ways that they might be well supported. Simulated patients represent a community of practice, characterized by mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire. Ongoing SP input in SP programs may benefit SPs and lead to higher-quality educational experiences for learners.