The Debt-Free Medical Career that Actually Helps Patients

Faking illness is a time-tested way to skip out on work or school.  For decades, workers and students alike have faked a cough and the sniffles, and gotten away with it.  What you’re about to read may be surprising, so brace yourselves:  You can get paid to fake illness.  That’s right; medical schools pay people to fake illness to help train doctors.  People hired for this position are called, ‘Standardized Patients,’ or ‘SP,’ and they play an essential role in medical training.

As the number of medical students nationwide increases, so does the demand for these patients.  Doctors spend much of their time interacting with patients, so one-on-one training with a real person is essential for students.  Standardized Patients are trained as actors, and they learn to display specific assigned symptoms related to certain conditions.  They’re also instructed to show a variety of different attitudes, to help train doctors to deal with difficult (and easy) patients in the real world.  To become an SP, you don’t usually need any specialized training or qualifications.  Employers look for an adaptable personality and a unique ability to stay in character.  Improvisation also helps, as long as it fits with the theme assigned.

During a typical day, an SP will sit down with at least a dozen doctors and receive a real physical exam.  During this time, the SP will display whatever symptoms they’re instructed to, and behave exactly like they’re told.  For example, an SP may be asked to imitate a patient with a cough and a bad attitude.  Medical students will have to address the cough while simultaneously dealing with an angry fake patient.  Some Standardized Patients go through extensive training with the school so that doctors can perform more complicated examinations.  Some of which include prostate and breast exams, which (for obvious reasons) require a different level of consent and instruction on the part of the SP.  The average pay for this position starts around $12 an hour but goes as high as $40 and above. 

The Standardized Patient has been a staple of medical training for over 35 years, and will likely continue to be for many decades in the future.  In fact, their use is required to fulfill the Clinical Skills section of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.  For careers in medicine, real human interaction cannot be replaced by machines or testing.  A medical student’s interactions with an SP are generally weighted heavily during grading, as good patient relationships are critical in the industry.  Standardized Patients also give feedback directly to medical students, which often weighs on their grades as well.  If you want to work in the medical industry without a degree, or if you wish to contribute to the next generation of great doctors, consider this position.  It may just be the best (and most honest) way to pretend to be sick and get paid!

Source: (Drexel University)

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