Standardized participants (SPs) for simulation scenarios can be sourced from a variety of places. If a school of nursing is at a college or university with a theater program, they may ask for volunteers from drama classes, even offering class credits. SPs can be volunteers from other educational programs, from EMS and pharmacy to nursing. At a conference or trade show, vendor participants may even ask to volunteer as a branding opportunity.
Regardless of where SPs come from, here are some tips to make being an SP a positive experience.
1. Wear clothes you don't care about. Not everyone carries or uses No-Stain Blood, and even when they do, plenty of other types of goo exist that can damage or stain fabric. When I was an SP at the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) conference, I had multiple electrodes stuck to my t-shirt and jeans multiple times. It took lots of Goo Gone® and a couple of washings to get rid of the adhesive.
J. Todd Vreeland, EMS consultant for Pocket Nurse, says he and his EMS colleagues advise SPs who are acting in EMS simulation scenarios to wear bathing suits or sports bras under their clothing just in case the scenario calls for the EMS students to cut off clothes for access.
2. Ask a lot of questions. The people and organizations that run simulations want their students to get the most immersive experience possible. Ask about how you are supposed to react to questions; ask how you are supposed to react to treatment. For example, if you are an SP with a latex allergy, what do you do when someone who hasn't asked about possible allergies comes at you with latex gloves on? What if they want to give you a shot?
3. Even if you know something, act as if you don't. If you are a fellow nursing or EMS student acting as an SP, pretend you aren't! Don't rattle off a list of information for the people “treating” you – make them ask the right questions. If they use a medical term, pretend you don't know what it mean. For regular patients, “syncopal episodes” doesn't translate to “passing out”.
4. Act! I haven't been on stage since I was in college, and when I volunteered to be an SP, I didn't realize I would have to pretend to pass out, and then “regain” consciousness. Once the scenario was explained to me, and then started, I channeled all my acting chops into that “reawakening” moment, testing the students’ empathy and interpersonal skills. You are not a manikin, and your participation in simulated scenarios should go above and beyond being a body in a bed.
5. My biggest piece of advice is to try to relax and have a little fun. As an SP, you really are providing a valuable service to organizations like iSimulate and to students learning to treat patients. You are reminding them of their patients' humanity, and how to be empathetic to vulnerable people who are submitting to their care.