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BCIT’s Simulated Participant Program

The Simulated Participant Program is part of the Simulation Program at BCIT’s School of Health Sciences. We support experiential learning opportunities for Health Sciences students by providing Simulated Participants to portray patients, family members, and/or health care workers in simulated scenarios.

What is a Simulated Participant?

Smiling Asian caring nurse supporting holding hand of olde senior female patient lying on bed at clinic or hospital.A Simulated Participant (SP) – also called a Simulated Patient – is an individual who is trained to accurately represent a “real” patient, client, or coworker in a simulated encounter with a student.
SPs help Health Sciences students develop their clinical and communication skills in a safe environment giving students room to make mistakes, without the stress of worrying they might cause harm to a “real” patient.
This isn’t just a service for the students — it’s also a service for future patients, clients, and colleagues.

How does an SP contribute to health care education?

Professional nurse at the hospital bandaging the hand with a medical bandage for a woman patient.Working with an SP, a student can learn clinical skills such as taking blood pressure, auscultating for heart, lung, and other sounds, testing range of motion, using diagnostic equipment, and assessing physical symptoms.
Perhaps even more importantly, students learn vital communication skills. They can identify their own strengths, and their opportunities for development, when it comes to connecting with patients, discover any unconscious biases, and find out how they, personally, can relate to the people they are there to help.
This is the place for learners to make mistakes, miscalculate, misunderstand, or be misunderstood. When these learners are ready to work with the public, they will be more aware and confident, and their patients and clients will greatly benefit.

What does an SP do in a simulation with students?

Selective focus of calm nurse talking to elderly patientWhen SPs do a simulation, they play out what we call a “case,” which has been devised and written to support specific learning goals. They are trained in advance, learning the background information of who this patient is: their life circumstances, medical history, and of course the condition needing attention today. SPs are also informed of the learning goals, and the “expected learner actions,” so they have some idea of what will likely happen in the encounter.
Depending on the circumstances, in a simulation the students may:

  • Listen to the heart and lungs
  • Press on the abdomen
  • Take blood pressure, pulse and temperature
  • Look into the eyes, ears, nose and throat
  • Ask the SP to follow instructions for a neurological exam (touch your finger to your nose, walk on this line, and other simple tests)
  • Provide basic care to make their patient more comfortable
  • Offer advice or counselling to help their SP better manage the health condition being investigated

An SP must be comfortable with being touched by both male and female students.
Simulations are monitored by teaching staff.
Encounters do not include invasive assessments or procedures.
SPs work varied hours and are hired on a casual basis.

Who can be an SP?

Black patient talking to doctor during appointment

There is no specific education, training or background required. Skills needed:

  • Ability to memorize patient information such as medical / personal history and current symptoms
  • Effective verbal communication
  • Comfort and willingness to participate in a physical exam
  • Ability to understand and follow directions and incorporate trainer feedback
  • For SPs who wish to participate in virtual sessions, requires access to a secure internet connection in a private place (if you do not have a secure internet connection, you can still participate in our in-person simulations)
  • Past experience with SP work in academic settings is an asset, but is not a requirement

On a case-by-case basis for specific learning events, demographics and physical abilities and characteristics may be a factor in SP recruitment.

How do I apply?

Portrait of a female middle aged cancer survivor patient in a hospitalThe SP Program recruits new participants on a rolling, as-needed basis to meet the learning goals of Health Sciences programs.
If you are interested in joining BCIT’s SP Program, please review the BCIT job posting on BCIT’s Careers page, and submit your application there. We are unable to accept applications sent through email.
If we think you may be a good fit for our program, we’ll get in touch with you to set up an interview.
If you need more information before deciding to apply, please contact the SP Program.
SPs at BCIT are considered part-time Auxiliary employees, and are represented by the BCGEU (BC General Employees’ Union).