Simulated learning to prepare for real-life situations.

The Simulated Participant (SP) Program at MGH Institute of Health Professions provides a dynamic educational resource to enhance all facets and levels of health professional training.

SPs are employed extensively across the entire scope of the MGH Institute programs. SPs participate in Interprofessional Education (IPE) scenarios and training sessions – they may play the role of a patient or family member as they interact with a healthcare team. SPs may participate in clinical assessment, Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs), motivational interviewing sessions, and history, and physical practice sessions, among other activities. Since the spectrum is so broad, extensive training and sharp skills are necessary to succeed as a Simulated Participant.

Becoming a Simulated Participant (SP)

The term, Simulated Participant (SP), refers to any human role player that participates in any sort of simulation activity.

Some SPs are simulated patients.

  • Simulated Patients have been trained to portray a real patient in order to simulate a set of symptoms or problems used for healthcare education and research.

Some SPs perform as standardized patients.

  • Standardized Patients have been trained to allow each student to receive precisely the same patient experience; and are often used to assess learners’ skills in history taking, consultation, physical exams, motivational interviewing, and other clinical skills. Standardized patients differ from simulated patients in that an additional level of skill is required to accurately and consistently perform the same role over the course of multiple encounters.

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Simulated participants are used in most of the healthcare professions programs offered at the MGH Institute. SP roles and activities for each program may include:

  • History-Taking Assessment
    SPs are provided with a script and engage in an interview with a student learner based on the scripted case.
  • Physical-Exam Skills
    Students practice and demonstrate physical exam skills such as listening to the heart and lungs, taking blood pressure, and performing a range of motion and manual muscle testing on SPs.
  • Patient Communication Skills
    Students learn to engage in open dialogue with SPs in a variety of scenarios from conflict resolution to breaking bad news to motivational interviewing.
  • Use of spoken and sign-language interpreters
    SPs with the ability to converse in languages other than English interact with student learners through an interpreter in a simulation setting.
  • Evaluation of the elder patient
    Senior SPs interact with students in simulation scenarios that center around healthcare concerns specific to the elderly population.
  • Working with children/adolescent patients and parents
    Students engage in simulation scenarios focused on the pediatric population, with SPs playing the role of either the parent or the child.
  • Working with patients with disabilities
    Students interact in the history and physical examination of patients with disabilities in a controlled environment.
  • Working with the LGBTQ Community
    Students interact with SPs in history and physical exams with a focus on meeting the healthcare needs of patients within the LGBTQ community
  • OB/GYN and GU Exam Skills
    Specially trained SPs participate in pelvic, genitourinary, rectal, and breast exams with students under the supervision of faculty. (For more detail on the MGH IHP Gynecological Teaching Associate and Male Genitourinary Teaching Associate programs please contact us.)
    Such a wide variety of clinical and communications skills development requires that SPs working with the MGH Institute be highly trained and competent members of the education team.


Each SP assigned to a simulation at the MGH Institute is trained to meet the learning objectives for that experience and will be provided with specific direction so that the participants receive the most benefit from each experience.

Training varies, but will include the following:

  • Written and Verbal Feedback
    SPs learn to administer effective and constructive feedback from the patient's perspective through a written checklist of competencies or verbally, based on communication and observed behavior
  • Portrayal
    SPs learn the fundamentals of portraying a realistic patient to maintain the highest level of fidelity during the student/patient encounter. A discussion on how to accurately convey scripted information in a way that meets the learning objectives.
  • SP Professionalism
    SPs learn the keys to success in their role through maintaining effective communication, reliability, and thorough preparation for assignments.
  • Physical Exam Skills
  • SPs learn the fundamentals of physical exam skills and what they should expect in the role of the simulated patient.


Simulated Participant FAQs

While some SPs do have acting experience, most do not. Some ability to portray a person other than yourself is required. This ability will be assessed during your interview process and will be enhanced through training and coaching.

SPs are assigned based on the demographic requirements of the script and the learning objective of the simulation (i.e. age, gender, ethnicity…). Some SPs with known actual physical/medical conditions may be asked to volunteer themselves to a group of learners for the sake of demonstration or presentation. This is entirely based on the comfort of the SP and there is never any pressure to participate.

Additionally, some roles may be physically and emotionally taxing and therefore SPs with known limitations may be cautioned to consider signing up for the role if there is a possibility that doing so would have an adverse effect on their health.

Most activities that involve a physical exam will require that the SP present in a patient hospital gown with athletic wear underneath (such as a sports bra or top, or athletic shorts). Please note that while you are not required to be fully disrobed, you may be examined by students and/or faculty with the expectation that you will be lightly clad. If you are uncomfortable with being examined physically with minimal clothing this may not be the position for you.

Invitations to participate in an SP assignment will be based on factors such as the demographic need for the scheduled simulation event, the number of SPs needed the skill requirement of the SPs needed, and the hours and duration of the simulation. There may be times throughout the calendar year when SP assignments are more frequent than others.

You will not be asked to grade students. You may be asked to provide feedback either verbally or in the form of a written checklist. The feedback is based on interpersonal skills and communication with you during the simulation.

The pay range for SP assignments is based on the demand of the activity and may either be:


    • Physical exam only; no script
    • Case and SP training


    • Any scripted assignments (History and Physical Exam)
    • Minimally invasive exams (no pelvic, rectal, or breast)
    • Activities involving patients with actual medical conditions


    • A pelvic, rectal, genitourinary, or breast exam procedure

SPs are hired as “per diem” employees and do not receive benefits. SP candidates must also submit to a background check, reference check, and identity verification before being hired.

All correspondence will be sent to SP via email. Therefore, all SPs are required to have an active email account and are strongly encouraged to check it frequently for availability requests, invitations and detailed updates regarding SP assignments.

Most people who work as SPs find it rewarding and fun. While we encourage and promote an enjoyable and exciting environment, SPs are also expected to be professional and to dedicated to their work. Much training and preparation are required to become an effective Simulated Participant. This is not always an easy job and often the stakes can be high, therefore it is not for everyone. If you are interested in applying for an SP position with the MGH Institute or you would like to find out more information about Simulated Participants (this includes Simulated Patients and Standardized Patients), twilliams [at] (please contact us).

Contact the SP Program

Email us directly at:

Tony Williams

Standardized Patient Manager Simulation Education IMPACT Practice Center Interprofessional Education and Practice