Like Kramer, Hamilton residents can be paid to act as a patient for medical students


Published November 11, 2021 at 10:58 am

Simulated Client Services gives aspiring standardized patients a chance to live out their Cosmo Kramer dreams in Hamilton. (Columbia Pictures Television)

I’ll never forget the first time I watched Kramer’s masterful performance as a gonorrhea-sufferer on Seinfeld; the flair and pageantry of it all. It was like watching a tall-haired Meryl Streep.

I’m no actor (I did spend my teen years training to be a pro wrestler but my WWE dreams were dashed when I realized the job required muscles) but I thought it would be fun to play a character and pretend to have an ailment that required diagnosis by a medical student. I, too, wanted gonorrhea.

I spent decades believing it was a pipedream — nothing more. Until this past summer when I was informed by a friend who works in theatre that the profession is absolutely real… and it’s spectacular.

How do I know it’s spectacular? I got to finally live out my dream as a standardized patient (SP).

Simulated Client Services is a Montreal-based company that operates throughout Canada — including Hamilton, which serves as a central location for many provincial college exams. Simulated Client Services coordinates and facilitates exams that challenge students to put their years of education into hands-on, practical use.

After going through the application process and submitting a photo of myself, I was cast as a 55-year-old man suffering with back pain. Was I cast as someone 20 years my senior based on the photo I submitted?

I’ve already been typecast. Thankfully, balding in your late teens builds character and I’m a good sport.

I received my standardized patient package weeks before the exam, complete with my character and script (prompts). I soon realized the gravity of my role as an SP; going face-to-face with up to 30 students (also known as candidates) who have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a decade to achieve their occupational goals. All that’s standing in the way of them and their future is this exam — and me, a 55-year-old retired landscaper. It was a role I was comfortable playing despite a lifetime of avoiding manual labour.

After some virtual training and a morning dry run, I was ready to fake some back pain — as I did as a prospective pro wrestler. Full circle.

As an SP, you work fairly closely with an assessor — a professional in the field tasked with grading the students’ performance. The student has 10 minutes to ask the right questions and give an acceptable diagnosis, while also demonstrating the comforting soft skills required for patient interaction. I even got to do some grading, myself.

The day can feel long and it’s stressful to think one slip-up by the SP could lead to a student struggling through their final exam. But overall, it was a very rewarding experience. You also get to work with a lot of interesting people. Let’s just say there are much worse ways to make extra money on weekends; like getting hit in the head with a steel chair while wearing your mother’s old tights.

Simulated Client Services is always looking for more SPs, as well as staff for various roles in Hamilton.

Seinfeld imagery and characters property of Columbia Pictures Television

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