Interprofessional Standardized Patient Exercise (ISPE): The Case of “Paul Harris”

Publication ID Published Volume
9011 October 4, 2011 7


Effective interprofessional education (IPE) enhances collaboration among healthcare professionals by engaging participants in authentic tasks, settings and roles. Using these guiding principles, this Interprofessional Standardized Patient Exercise (ISPE) was created to provide health professional students with a structured learning experience in working as an interdisciplinary health care team. The SP case of Paul Harris involves multiple complex chronic medical conditions and was designed to be relevant to many health professions. At our University, participants were 2nd and 3rd year students from five health professional schools: dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy. Students worked in interprofessional teams to interview the SP and create an integrated care plan. Faculty facilitators from each school were present to observe the students and to lead debriefing sessions. The exercise takes approximately 4 hours. This case would also be relevant to other health professional students, including nutritionists, physician assistants, and social workers.

In 2009-2010, we successfully implemented the Interprofessional Standardized Patient Exercise (ISPE) at our institution. 101 students participated, from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy. We evaluated students’ attitudes toward interprofessional team-based care by administering the Attitudes Toward Health Care Teams (ATHCT) validated survey to students pre- and post-ISPE. The survey uses a 6-point Likert Scale (1=strongly disagree, 6=strongly agree). Students’ attitudes improved on 2 of the 3 subscales of the survey, Team Value (pre-mean=4.87, SD=.50, post-mean=5.13, SD=.53, p<.001) and Team Efficiency (pre-mean=4.41, SD=.64, post-mean=4.72, SD=.64, p<.001). Attitudes toward Physicians’ Shared Role in interprofessional teams did not change significantly (p=.29).
We also surveyed students and faculty about their satisfaction with the ISPE, which was high: faculty would recommend the exercise for students in their profession (mean=5.67 on a 6-point scale, SD=1.05) and students would recommend the ISPE to a fellow student (mean=5.34, SD=.89).
Perceived achievement of the goals of the ISPE was evaluated through focus groups (one focus group for each profession). Students in all five focus groups reported appreciation for the opportunity to learn about other profession and to educate others about their own professional role.
These findings contribute to the growing body of literature on efforts to generate positive attitudes toward interprofessional collaboration early in training, which may influence students’ ability to be active and effective members of healthcare teams.


Staves J, Hossaini M, Kroon L, et al. Interprofessional standardized patient exercise (ISPE): the case of “Paul Harris”. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2011;7:9011.

Educational Objectives

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to efficiently interview and assess a patient with chronic illness, showing empathy, and sensitivity to a patient’s cultural and personal needs.
  3. Students will develop a comprehensive care plan to meet the patient’s healthcare needs in collaboration with other healthcare professionals.
  4. Students will describe the role of other healthcare professionals in caring for a patient with chronic illness.


  • Team, Interview, IPE

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ISSN 2374-8265