This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to be the first intern for the Clinical Skills Center (CSC) at Emory University School of Medicine. The CSC is part of the medical school’s Center For Experiential Learning (ExCEL). ExCEL hosts a multitude of programs for medical learners, Doctor of Physical Therapy learners (DPT), Physician’s Assistant (PA) learners and those continuing their medical educations. One of the most crucial components of the ExCEL curriculum is the simulation provided by the Clinical Skills Center, which is called ‘Objective Structured Clinical Examination’ or ‘OSCE’. Working with the Center provided me with a unique opportunity to combine my two majors – Human Health and Theater Studies – and learn how a center works, especially one that is run by an amazing team.
The medical school defines the Clinical Skills Center as a space “used for standardized patient education, clinical skills education, physical diagnosis and other educational experiences…”. CSC has a group of actors who are trained to take on the role as ‘standardized patients’. These ‘fake’ patients have a variety of illnesses and ailments that the learners are instructed to identify, diagnose, and treat. The standardized patients “…are skilled at presenting the history in a certain manner, simulating abnormal physical findings, and providing feedback to learners about bedside manner, professionalism and communication skills”.
A wide variety of learners and disciplines use the Clinical Skills Center. Emory medical learners experience their first OSCEs as early as the second week of their first year. These OSCEs begin as teaching simulations, rather than exams, and are usually for OB/GYN skills (such as vaginal and breast exams) and Pediatric skills (such as taking a child’s medical history and giving a physical exam). Slowly, these OSCEs become more testing-based and the learners are graded on their performance and interaction with the standardized patients. Emory University Hospital’s residence and fellows – called ‘Post-Graduate Year Learners (PGY)’ – also complete OSCEs as they continue their medical education after medical school. All of these learners might encounter agitated patients, such as a woman who thinks that the CIA is out to get her or patients in the ‘ER’ who have overdosed. Meanwhile, the PT learners help people with sore backs and hurt knees while the PA learners do just about everything in between.
As an intern, I had the opportunity to rotate jobs and responsibilities so I could understand how all of these individuals work together in an intricate puzzle, enhancing the skills of these physicians-to-be. My first job, working with Sherry, was to organize the closet filled with fake medical supplies – such as IVs, gauze, speculums, and so much more – and another closet full of fake sweat, ‘medication’, and other props used by the standardized patients. I then explored and slowly came to understand the center’s software, LearningSpace. Under Kelly’s watchful eye, I created events, assigned learners times and dates, and made sure everything was in working order. During some of the events, hosted by Deb and Dan, I acted as stage manager, which meant I was responsible for setting up and cleaning up the rooms, watching and listening to the live recordings of the events to catch and fix and issues, and problem-solving on the fly when something comes up.
My internship at the Clinical Skills Center was not only fun and interesting, but it gave me a potential career path in Public Health. I now want to work in healthcare simulation, which is currently used in many different areas of study besides medicine, such as social workers and the military. For example, during the Ebola crisis, CSC was used by physicians and nurses to practice their safety procedures when handling infected patients, which took place in the Simulation Center (located in the basement of the School of Medicine, and uses mannequins rather than live actors). Healthcare simulation is a new and upcoming field with a lot of potential to aid different facets of society. I cannot wait to see how the use of simulations in health grows in the upcoming years, and I cannot wait to take part.
A huge thanks to the Clinical Skills Center for my amazing internship, and I am so excited to be continuing my work there not only as an intern but also as a researcher for my honors thesis!
- Emory Center for Experiential Learning: Clinical Skills Center. (n.d.). Retrieved August, 28, 2017 from https://med.emory.edu/excel/centers/clinical-skills-center/index.html