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Using actors to improve patient quality

When you think about someone who works in a hospital you more than likely think of doctors, nurses and lab technicians. However, there's one job opening that may downright surprise you.

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 5:28 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - When you think about someone who works in a hospital you more than likely think of doctors, nurses and lab technicians. However, there's one job opening that may downright surprise you. The job posting is for a "standardized patient" a fancy way of saying actors and actresses. People from young to old are hired by Mayo Clinic to help simulate medical scenarios. It's just another layer of training offered at the Simulation Lab Center.

One of the actresses is Beth Loftus. Loftus has a medical background as a Nurse Practitioner and has played the role of a standardized patient for the past 4-years. She told KIMT she enjoys mentoring others and this is a great way to assist medical students.

Doctor Torrey Laack is Co-Medical Director of Mayo's Simulation Center. During most of the training sessions he is behind a mirrored glass window controlling the mannequins movements and speaking for them. The life-like mannequins range in size from babies to adults. While medical staff and students are able to perform multiple procedures on the dummies, when a situation needs to be more realistic with conversation and emotion, standardized patients are involved in the process.

"We try to make it as realistic as possible, because the more that they can suspend disbelief the more that they get out of it and they'll stay in the moment. You'll actually find when you talk to them (students) after they've gone thru these sessions and you talk to them, they feel like they are really there," explained Dr. Laack.

Statistically speaking, Laack told KIMT they've seen great success.

"We've done some studies here that have proven that it does even improve patient outcomes, which is ultimately what we're doing this for," said Laack.

Not every medical scenario involves a deathly ill patient, nor are the trainings only available for students. In fact, Dr. Laack told KIMT they do the trainings with faculty and staff as it helps them learn to communicate with patients and their families, or even a difficult co-worker.

Mayo Clinic has expanded beyond its Rochester campus and is doing simulation at other locations across the health system in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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