The Politics of Standardized Patienthood

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Sara Press


Standardized Patient Programs (SPPs) enlist actors to roleplay the symptoms of various diseases and disorders, and to embody a range of personalities. These simulations are used to help improve the communicative practices and professional competencies of future healthcare workers. Focusing on the use of these programs for medical students and doctors, this article establishes a kairology of the SPP to better understand the shifting terrains of patient representation. A kairological account focuses on “historical moments as rhetorical opportunities” (Segal, 2005, p. 23) and, in the case of medicine, illustrates how “changes in [medical] practice are importantly reciprocal with changes in the terms of practice” (Segal, 2005, p. 22). I trace the SPP through various linguistic iterations to reveal how the shifting language of simulated patienthood reflects different orientations towards medical pedagogy and patient populations at significant junctures in time. I conclude my kairology with an examination of the Indigenous Simulated Patient Program, a 2011 pilot program that has the potential to better represent and serve Indigenous peoples in medical pedagogy and practice.

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