The contribution of simulated patients to meaningful student learning

A. Lovink*, M. Groenier, A. van der Niet, H. Miedema, J.J. Rethans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Communication training with simulated patients (SPs) is widely accepted as a valuable and effective means of teaching communication skills. However, it is unclear which elements within SP-student encounters make these learning experiences meaningful. This study focuses on the SP's role during meaningful learning of the student by giving an in-depth understanding of the contribution of the SP from a student perspective. Methods Fifteen bachelor Technical Medicine students were interviewed. Technical medicine students become technical physicians who optimize individual patient care through the use of personalized technology. Their perceptions of meaningful learning experiences during SP-student encounters were explored through in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Results Three main themes were identified that described what students considered to be important for meaningful learning experiences. First, SPs provide implicit feedback-in-action. Through this, students received an impression of their communication during the encounter. Implicit feedback-in-action was perceived as an authentic reaction of the SPs. Second, implicit feedback-in-action could lead to a process of reflection-in-action, meaning that students reflect on their own actions during the consultation. Third, interactions with SPs contributed to students' identity development, enabling them to know themselves on a professional and personal level. Discussion During SP encounters, students learn more than just communication skills; the interaction with SPs contributes to their professional and personal identity development. Primarily, the authentic response of an SP during the interaction provides students an understanding of how well they communicate. This raises issues whether standardizing SPs might limit opportunities for meaningful learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives on Medical Education
Issue number6
Early online date12 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Simulated patients (SPs)
  • Medical communication
  • Student learning
  • Meaningful learning

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