The lived experience of clinical instructors as simulated patients: a qualitative study

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Nicki Silberman
Caitlin Casella
Michael Lam
Fanny Lin


Purpose: Simulated patients (SPs) during simulated learning experiences (SLEs) are typically played by a trained actor, potentially requiring significant training time and cost. The participating university’s physical therapist (PT) education program recruits clinical instructors (CIs) to play the SP role during SLEs that represent various learning environments (in and out patient). As there is limited literature exploring the SP experience, especially from a clinician perspective, the purpose of this qualitative inquiry was to describe the lived experience of CIs as SPs.

Methods: This qualitative inquiry used an inductive approach to identify the experiences of CIs as SPs. Eight CIs participated in an individual semi-structured interview to gather their perspectives about their experiences playing the SP role during SLEs. A constant-comparative approach was used to develop codes, which were further collapsed into categories and main themes. Member checks and peer review were conducted to establish trustworthiness of the findings.

Results: Qualitative analysis revealed four main themes: (1) Becoming the Patient, (2) A Window into the Student Experience, (3) We See It Every Day: Using Experience to Guide Performance, and (4) Giving Back Through Teaching.

Conclusion: Being an SP was an enjoyable experience that allowed CIs to participate in teaching and give back to their profession. Empathy gained for both patients and students through the SP experience influenced the CIs’ own clinical practice and may enhance CIs’ preparation for student clinical experiences and improve CI mentoring skills.


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Article Details

Simulated patients, Clinical Instructor, Physical therapist, Clinical education, Empathy
Original Research Articles
How to Cite
Silberman, N., Casella, C., Lam, M., & Lin, F. (2022). The lived experience of clinical instructors as simulated patients: a qualitative study. The Journal of Clinical Education in Physical Therapy, 4.