Local actors hired to help train medical students
MILWAUKEE - The Medical College of Wisconsin has a unique program that's putting healing power into the hands of local medical students. The 'STAR Center'
is a valuable tool to make sure students are ready for real scenarios and real patients.
Deborah Simpson, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean For Academic Affairs and director of the program. She says it helps students learn how to hande sensitive situations. "How to tell a patient that they may have a spouse or themselves who are dying, or have an illness and may need surgery."
The Center hires local 'actors' to be Standardized Patients, or SP's. The s-p gets a script, and much like a play the actor rehearses and does the same scene over and over again.
Also much like a play, the actor must be ready for the medical student to take the scene in any direction.
"We use the term 'branching logic'. If this happens they go that way, if this happens they go that way," Dr. Simpson explains.
Abby Walch is a second year med student. She says this training is just as important as her labs and biology classes. "If the patient feels comfortable with you, they're more likely to tell you about their probelm and and what they're experiencing."
The scenarios can range from basic exams to telling a patient they have dementia, and can't drive anymore. In the scenario we saw, the SP has chest pain. The 'patient' is actually Alice Wilson--a local actress who started acting for the Med College in 2006.
"I was actually a candy striper in my hometown when I was 14, and it became apparent really quickly I couldn't handle blood, poop, needles, or anything like that," she laughs.
Being an SP is her way of giving back to the medical community.
"I feel blessed I can use my theater and acting background to do something that helps people," she says.
Fourth year medical student Niki Groeschl adds, "It really is a safe learning experience."
Groeschl knows it'll make her a better doctor when she graduates this March.
"Building that patient/phyician... building that relationship is the most important part, to me," she says.
You don't have to be an actor to be an SP. The STAR Center hires people of all ages, races, and walks of life. It is a paid position.