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What sort of patient? The 'well volunteer'

In many cases (medicine, osteopathy, physiotherapy, nursing), it is common practice for students to examine one another as ‘well volunteers’, such as for examination, surface anatomy or heart sounds, and in some cases to peer-assess one another.

The past 20 years have seen a dramatic change in the demographics of healthcare student populations and subsequent gender and cultural issues mean that sympathetic approaches to learners undressing in front of one another during skills sessions need to be adopted. This has given rise to the ‘healthy volunteer’ (such as a PhD or other student) who is recruited and paid to act as a patient for clinical skills sessions and examinations. This allows all learners to participate fully in the sessions, and teaching is more predictable and productive. The ‘patients’ can be trained to give feedback similar to that of a lay clinical educator.

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