Saturday, July 30, 2005

What makes a good patient?

When asked this during our humanities course, I replied 'co-operative'. You can imagine my delight when I discovered Stan, the model patient.

The programmable dummy is a learning tool for students, and can take on various clinical personas. Students can examine him, take his pulse and even administer drugs.

It is a technological step that is perhaps the consequence of the age old debate surrounding our profession and the way it educates - the fact that we as medical students practice on people. This is explored in depth in Atul Gawande's 'Complications'.

It also harkens to the established medical profession view of patients as objects rather than people - the dummy cannot give any verbal information (and who said 90% of the diagnosis was in the patient history?).

Obviously a great teaching aid, I hope Stan does not stand in for real people for medical students. Without a patient narrative, we lose our ability to empathise and also the individual mental portfolio of those patients we have met over the years, who stood out because of their unique particular stories.

When students practice on one another, they realise what it is to be scrutinised, which teaches consideration and respect. It also teaches sympathy to an extent, I know what is like to be cannulated badly - perhaps why I am loathe to do it to a patient.

Stan's full name is Stan D Ardman, aka Standard Man. Lest we forget, he ought to come with a reminder: standard people aren't mute!


Corpus callosum said...
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Corpus callosum said...

Ah, but the frustration of seeing a patient lies not in his being incoorperative, rather I found patients who are inconsistent with their stories much more difficult to handle.
Having said this, it's a blessing in itself, for the inconsistency reveals much about the patient's character and generally helps in formulating a care plan.