McMaster University

McMaster University

Medical students observe their peer examining a patient (standardized patient) through a two-way mirror
Moulage is applied on a standardized patient's face to simulate a facial injury
Medical students observe peer examining a patient (standardized patient) through two-way mirror Moulage is applied on standardized patient's face to simulate facial injury

Standardized Patient Program

The Program at McMaster

The Standardized Patient Program is a sub-division of the Centre for Simulation-Based Learning (CSBL) and coordinates the use of standardized patients (SPs). A standardized patient is a healthy person who is trained to realistically and accurately reproduce a history, physical and/or emotional medical scenario that a real patient would present. Standardized patients provide faculty and students opportunities to teach, assess, and refine a variety of skills, including communication, interview, diagnostic, and clinical skills.

The Standardized Patient Program is a fundamental resource for curriculum. It provides a unique and optimal environment to learn because it is risk-free and controllable. Students have the ability to explore techniques without causing  harm, while SPs can be 'fast-forwarded', 'rewound', 'paused' or 'repeated' to various points of a simulation.


The Standardized Patient Program at McMaster University was formalized in 1971 under the guidance of the late Dr. Howard Barrows. He had created this unique educational tool in the mid-sixties for the undergraduate medical program. We now support all programs in the Faculty of Health Sciences, external licensing organizations such as the Medical Council of Canada and Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators, as well as competency assessments of health care professionals. Since its inception the program has grown beyond its founder's expectations and its formula is now across North America and around the world. It continues to create interest in our highly respected University.

Potential Uses for SPs

Our standardized patients provide a broad range of scenarios to simulate. These scenarios range from psycho-social issues, such as abuse, to physical conditions. Standardized patients are also used as Physical Exam Models strictly for clinical skills practice.  Our SPs are also trained on how to provide effective feedback to learners, from a patient’s perspective.

The SP Program is compatible with the McMaster model of Problem-based Learning (PBL). Standardized patients are trained to be standardized so that encounters can be repeated. This offers for several tutorial groups or students to experience the same 'problem' where results can then be objectively and comparatively assessed.

Standardized patients can also be used for assessment and evaluation. The SPP runs Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) using our SPs whereby students are evaluated on various clinical skills. Standardized patients can also be used in combination with High-Fidelity Simulations in order to enhance realism or learning objectives of a scenario.

Niagara SPP

We are pleased to announce that we have expanded our program into the Niagara Region. Currently in its infancy, we are building a roster to provide standardized patients, standardized clients, and warm body volunteers to all programs at the McMaster Niagara Campus, Niagara College and Brock University.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0