Preparing Simulated Patients for Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs)

Simulated patients (SPs) function as the exam question in Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). SPs need to present the question, or patient portrayal, in a standardized manner to provide the opportunity for reliable assessment inferences, ensuring the defensibility of the assessment. At the same time, the SP’s presentation needs to authentically reflect the person they are representing. This is a complex, nuanced and demanding task for both the SPs and for those who train them.

This one-day introductory workshop has been created for clinical educators and others who train SPs for OSCEs. In this workshop, we draw on our experiences of working with SPs in three countries to demonstrate scholarly, practical and systematic approaches to preparing SPs for OSCEs. Participants will work with tools that support standardization including a scenario template, a mock scenario, a training protocol, a scenario training video, and an assessment readiness evaluation form. We provide a structured yet interactive flexible format in which to meet specific learning objectives, featuring large and small group discussions and activities, a training simulation, role-play and stimuli for individual reflection.


On successful completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify theories and principles relevant to standardized SP role portrayal for OSCE purposes
  2. Apply specific training strategies and tools to enhance standardization of SP role portrayal
  3. Reflect on applications in their own practice to improve the quality of OSCEs


Cathy Smith HBA, MA, PhD

Cathy Smith has worked in the field of simulation for over 25 years with local, national, and international educational and assessment organizations.  Cathy has a PhD in drama from the University of Toronto and draws on her facilitation, performance, and simulated patient (SP) experiences to collaborate in the development of simulation learning for health professionals at all learning stages and in diverse formats, including face-to-face and web-based programs.  A member of the Wilson Centre for Research in Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, she presents frequently at national and international conferences and writes about simulation methodology.  Her research interests include exploring the concept of performance in simulation and various aspects of SP methodology.  Cathy develops SP roles and protocols and provides ongoing support for a distributed national high stakes licensing OSCE in Canda.  She was the Conference Chair of the Association of Standardized Patient Educators (2013-2016). She is also a member of the Editorial Board for Advances in Simulation.

Debra Nestel, PhD, is Professor of Healthcare Simulation in Education. Debra completed her first degree at Monash and has since lived and worked in Hong Kong, London and now back in Melbourne. Debra leads a national programme in simulation education (, a network in simulated patient methodology (, and is Editor in Chief of Advances in Simulation (, the journal of the Society in Europe for Simulation Applied to Medicine. When Debra is not at Monash, she is busy being a Professor of Surgical Education, Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne. In this role she is Course Director of the Graduate Programs in Surgical Education, co-badged degrees with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. She is also Course Director of a new suite of programs in Surgical Science. Debra is passionate about research and writing has published over 140 peer-reviewed papers in health professions education, published an edited book on simulated patient methodology (2015), and has two edited books for publication in 2017, on healthcare simulation and on surgical education. She has won many awards and prizes for her work in simulation. She can often be found in a Qantas lounge or plane on her way to or from another conference, course or meeting in Australia and abroad. Debra is looking forward to working with the MIHCE team.

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