Summer Series: What’s an SP Exam?

Alright guys after that VERY extended break from the first year summer series, here’s the last post specific to the first semester of medical school before my wrap up summary for the series. So, what’s an SP exam? Standardized Patient (SP) exams are a chance for people at my school to get an opportunity to perform histories & physical exams for practice in 1st and 2nd years before we’re required to do it for real in the hospital as 3rd & 4th years. These exams are thrown into the schedule around the time of your other exams for an exam cycle & they usually pertain to a specific bodily ‘system’. For example, if you’re in the Musculoskeletal course, your SP exam will only include you performing the history & physical (H&P) portions of an exam pertaining to the Muscoloskeletal system. (don’t worry, I have lots to share about each system I’ve taken thus far in my upcoming ‘Course Reviews’ series! :)). Module 1 is a bit different from the rest of pre-clinical years because it isn’t systems based. So these SP exams tend to be more general and only involve taking a patient’s vital signs and writing a brief physical exam about their chief complaint.
So how are these even graded? Do people just sit around watching you interact with a patient in the hospital? Are you talking to an inanimate object or a prop dummy while people watch you do it? Of course not! haha. It’s actually a pretty cool process:
A week and a half before the SP exam the faculty at the Clinical Skills lab sets up small group sessions with physicians or upper classmen medical students, & a paid actor who acts as a patient. After that, students are allowed to go to our school’s Clinical Skills Lab whenever they want to practice with friends. This Clinical Skills Lab is full of physical exam rooms equipped with everything that a typical exam room would have (x-ray light, sink, exam bed, tongue depressors, and medical instruments).

My classmate Patrick so graciously let me check his ears while practicing for an ENT practical.

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Another sweet classmate of mine, Lauren, allowed me to do extra practice with vital signs on her when I was struggling! ❤

After a week of practice it’s time for the exam! You’re assigned a time to show up to the Clniical Skills Lab and once there you’re assigned a standardized patient with whom to perform a History & Physical exam. How do the graders know what you’re doing in the room? Cameras! Crazy right?! The exam graders sit in a control room and watch you via the cameras in the room. They use microphones to tell you when you have 5 minutes remaining and when your time in the room is up. After gathering information from the patient in the room and making a general assessment about their health, it’s time to write up your summary. An important fact that professors and clinicians stressed early on in school was the importance of documentation. As they always tell us ‘if you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it.’ This is an important skill for both standardized exams and for the future in practice.
Approximately 10 minutes are given to complete the ‘write-up’ and that’s it! All that is left to do after an SP exam is usually a celebratory picture in white coat and nice clothes. These exams are by far my favorite! It’s so much fun to perfect skills in patient interaction and it is also great preparation for the 3rd and 4th years of medical school (in our program, those are the 2 clinically-based years of school involving rotations in major departments of the hospital and interacting heavily with patients.)
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Me and friends, Brandon & Destiny, celebrating being done with an SP with lots of pictures!

For those of you in medical school, how do YOU like SP exams? For those of you currently applying or interested in the health field — what do YOU think about this interesting way to assess skills in patient interaction?

Summer Series: Year One–Exam Time

Hey guys! Back again for another summer series post about year one! Today we reach the dreaded discussion of exam time. The best way to do this is talk about the exams in the order in which I took them and then talk about what happens afterwards.

*standardized patient exams were not included in the first two exam cycles so I’ll wait to explain that later in the Summer Series

Lab Practicals:

The first exam of the bunch was Continue reading

Summer Series: Year One — All Summer ’16

Hey guys!

First off I wanted to say thanks so much for the feedback on my end of the year post! I will be making weekly vlogs that discuss the things you all wanna hear about, starting this Friday! So stay tuned 🙂 In the mean time I thought Wednesdays would be a great day to talk it up about Year One, step by step–starting with the summer before it started!

My medical school has an awesome opportunity for up to 15 (my year there were only 6) selected incoming first year students who get a med school ‘crash course’ of sorts.  Continue reading

Food for Belly–Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

Hey guys!

So I recently (and by recently I mean literally this morning) started my vegan journey! I’ve been wanting to try veganism since last Fall but with a hectic school schedule and minimal opportunities to research the lifestyle in my sparce ‘down-time’, I decided in January that I would start this summer. Today is day one and it’s definitely been eye-opening thus far. I never realized how hard it would be for a southern girl to give up the butter but I’m excited to take on the challenge. For dinner I wanted something filling so I decided to go for some sweet potato fries. The recipe was fairly simple and I added my own twist!

Ingredients: Continue reading

My First 5K!

If there’s one thing I know I enjoy more than any other form of exercise–it’s running. Running has been therapeutic for me in many instances and I look forward to using running as an outlet for stress as opposed to my former outlet–food. It started out being just for fun but I’d always wondered what it would be like to complete a 5K race.

About a year ago I made it a goal to run 2 miles straight. By summer, I made it a goal to run at least 3 miles straight. I eventually decided that a 5K race was plausible, but could never get myself to sign up for one. A few months ago I actually committed to a race day and tried to train for the 3 months leading up to the race. In that time I had so many assignments, errands, tennis matches (I was on my college tennis team for my last semester), etc. that I had very little training completed by the time I needed to sign up for the race. But I said to myself “You know what, at this rate I’ll never be ready. Just do it Tierra.” And that’s what I did. Two weeks before the race I signed up online and made it a point to run as often as I could. Two days before the race I hurt my knee and was recommended by a physician to not run for at least another week. But I HAD to commit to this race. Continue reading

Food for Belly- Arctic Zero Review

If you’ve had any chance to check out my first Weekly Food Log post, I’m sure you quickly noticed how much I love ice cream. It’s kind of a problem 😂. But earlier today I took a trip to my local health food store and came across Arctic Zero! I’m aware that many people in the health and fitness world have probably already heard of this ice cream before but I hadn’t. I literally stopped in my tracks when I read the front cover: Continue reading