NMP Volunteer and Standardized Patients Program

Volunteer and standardized patients play an integral role in the delivery of medical education. The volunteer/standardized patient program provides an opportunity for people of all ages, genders, physical condition, and backgrounds to participate in the education process of the medical students in the Northern Medical Program.

Those who volunteer can fulfill one of several roles - as a Volunteer Patient (VP), a Standardized Patient (SP), or a Clinical Teaching Associate (CTA) and will receive a stipend or renumeration for their participation.


Volunteer Patients

Volunteer Patients are commonly referred to as VP's.  VP's participate "as themselves "and help the medical students learn and practice their physical exam or interviewing skills.

VP's usually spend 1 to 3 hours in a clinical setting at the University Hospital of Northern BC with 4 to 8 medical students, under the watchful guidance of their physician tutor.  The VP is there to allow the student to learn about a body system, how it functions and allows the student to examine the particular body system that the class is studying at that time.  Examples are the heart and circulation; the foot and ankle; head and neck, etc.

VP's need to be comfortable being a "teaching model" and may be required to sit on an examining table wearing a hospital gown. VP's will not be asked to participate in any examinations or testing that is painful or intrusive (no breast or groin examinations, and no needles!), and they will be fully informed about what will happen and will provide their consent prior to participating in a session.

There are two types of volunteer patients, those "with findings" and those "without findings".

  • Volunteer Patients without findings are people who do not have a medical condition with obvious signs and symptoms.
  • Volunteer Patients with findings are people who DO have a medical condition with obvious signs and symptoms. VP's with findings work with the students while they learn about the sights, sounds and findings related to body function that is affected by a medical or genetic condition.

Dates/Times for Clinical Skills Sessions:

Clinical Skills Sessions currently take place on weekday afternoons between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Your commitment will depend on which sessions you will be available and scheduled for.


Standardized Patients

Volunteer patientStandardized Patients are commonly referred to as SP's. SP's are trained to role play for teaching sessions as well as the evaluation of students.Though a background in acting can be helpful, it is certainly not essential.

Training time varies and depends on the complexity of the role and the ability of the individual(s) selected for the role. Training can be done at any time suitable to the SP and the Patient Trainer.

Time necessary for the role play varies and depends on the purpose of the role and how many students are involved.

SP Roles for Teaching Sessions

SP roles are used for helping students master the communication skills necessary for successful patient assessment, interaction and treatment. SP's generally perform their role in front of a group of 4-8 students with a physician tutor in the room. They may repeat this role 2-3 times up to 15 minutes in length. These sessions are generally done during the week and during the day.

SP Roles for Evaluation Sessions

SP roles are used during Years 1 through 4 Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCE's). SP's generally perform their role in a room with one student present at a time and one physician in the room assessing the student performance.  SP's may repeat this role from 8-16 times in 8 to 12 minute segments.

The types of cases that an SP will be asked to simulate vary in demand depending on case specifics.


Clinical Teaching Associates

Clinical Teaching Associates are commonly referred to as CTA's - FCTA's (female) or MCTA's (male). CTA’s are women and men who love teaching and want to make an impact on the delivery of health care for future patients.

CTA's receive special training so that they can help teach medical students how to perform respectful and thorough exams that are considered sensitive in nature, such as female breast and pelvic exams, and male urogenital and prostate exams.

CTA's must be willing to be both the patient and the instructor at the same time. You will undergo these examinations while you are teaching.

Individuals that are chosen to become CTA’s must have all of the necessary anatomy, with no findings, to teach these sessions.

Teaching sessions are sporadic and occur during the weekday so CTA's need to have flexible schedules and be reliable. Individuals chosen to become CTA's will be paid for training and each exam that you teach.


For further information on how to become a volunteer, standardized patient or clinical teaching associate, please contact:

Kathy Dewijn
Patient Recruiter/Standardized Patient Trainer
Phone: 250-649-7240
Email: katherine.dewijn@unbc.ca