The Robert Berger, DO Clinical Learning and Assessment Center gives students the opportunity to practice clinical skills, develop crucial communication abilities and demonstrate that they have achieved clinical competence. Through the use of standardized patients and a human patient simulator, the center allows students to practice with patients in a supportive environment prior to treating real patients. Patient conditions and problems can be developed and altered to suit educational objectives and allow students to successfully and confidently transition into practice. Medical, physician assistant and psychology students all use the program, amounting to over 1,000 students a year participating in the program.
The driving force behind the standardized patient program was the late Robert Berger, DO '58, associate dean for undergraduate medical education and chairman of pediatrics. He passionately believed in humanizing the physician-patient relationship and believed that tomorrow's physicians would have to be expert communicators.
Dr. Berger launched PCOM's standardized patient program in the late 1980s with fourth-year students and residents serving as "patient-actors" for second-year students. A pilot study for the program, based on a model from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, was conducted in 1990. The standardized patient program in the Robert Berger, DO Clinical Learning and Assessment Center began in 1993 under the direction of Dr. Berger; Jeffrey Freeman, DO, divisional chairman, endocrinology; and Tony Errichetti, PhD, past director of the program.
Today, standardized patients are trained to document the skills of students and to provide honest and constructive feedback to them based on clinical performance. In addition, student sessions with the standardized patients are videotaped for evaluation and review by faculty and students.
The Robert Berger, DO Clinical Learning and Assessment Center also utilizes a state-of-the-art human patient simulator. Nicknamed STAN, for "standard man," the human patient simulator is a full-body mannequin that breathes, has a heartbeat, pupils that react to light and medications, a pulse that can be felt at five locations and lung sounds. He can also talk. STAN can be programmed to simulate almost any medical situation that might occur and accurately mirrors human responses to procedures such as CPR, intravenous medication, intubation, ventilation and catheterization. The use of STAN allows students to see conditions they may not encounter on clinical rotations. It also allows them to practice a scenario or procedure until they master it.