Standardized Patient Cases for Teaching Tobacco Cessation

Publication ID Published Version
1075 September 15, 2008 1
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


The clinical practice guideline, Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence, emphasizes that tobacco dependence is a chronic disease. Quitting is a continuous process with time spent in consideration, planning, maintenance, and relapse. In order to teach medical students how to provide comprehensive tobacco cessation counseling, they must learn effective strategies for each stage. This submission includes eight standardized patient (SP) cases and instructions on how each was used in a tobacco cessation counseling training workshop for third year clerkship students. There are two in each of the following four stages of change: Pre-Contemplation, Action, Maintenance and Relapse. Additional materials include an evaluation form and a sample student schedule. These documents include ready-to-use SP training materials and case-specific structured feedback forms for use by SPs during the student session. An outline of the opening lecture is also included.

The workshop begins with a didactic lecture on the physiology of nicotine addiction, behavioral modification techniques, and the pharmacology of nicotine cessation aids. Pairs of students then alternate between interviewing and providing feedback about their partner so that each student interviews and facilitates a patient in each stage. Students have nine minutes to conduct the interview and counseling and then receive feedback for three minutes. Feedback consists of self-assessment by the interviewing student about things done well, followed by positive reinforcement by the other student and then the SP. The interviewing student reports on what they would have done differently and the SP provides additional constructive feedback. The SP feedback is "scripted" in the form of a checklist of most important items for that case.


Mahoney J, Vitale F, Eibling D, Campbell P, Clifton M. Standardized Patient Cases for Teaching Tobacco Cessation. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2008. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. To understand the basics of addition theory, physiologic effects of nicotine, and pharmacology of tobacco cessation aides as they relate to tobacco cessation counseling.
  2. To demonstrate the ability to counsel patients in multiple stages of change, using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.


  • Tobacco Use Cessation, Smoking Cessation, Behavior Modification, Stages of Change, Behavior Therapy (MeSH)


  • Medical
    • Preventive Medicine


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Knowledge for Practice
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement

Professional Interest

  • Counseling (Personal or Academic)
  • Evaluation of Clinical Performance
  • Instructional Materials/Methods
  • Substance Abuse

Instructional Methods

  • Case-based Instruction/Learning

Academic Focus

  • Basic Sciences
    • Psychology/Behavioral Science
  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Dental Student
    • Medical Student


  • Standardized Patient

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ISSN 2374-8265