Reflections of our Volunteer Simulated Patients

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Written By

Rachelle McCabe


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

22 May 2023

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Reflections from our Volunteer Simulated Patients

A pass time that is rewarding, social and delivers the satisfaction of contributing to the development of our future doctors?

These volunteers say they get all this and much more from the JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry Volunteer Simulated Patient program.

We caught up with some of JCU’s valuable volunteers to find out about the Volunteer Simulated Patient program (VSP).

These VSPs provide students with an authentic clinical skills learning experience by role-playing real-life scenarios, interacting with medical students to develop their skills and confidence, and participating in physical examinations.

JCU’s VSP coordinator Jessica Waterson says the time donated by the VSPs is invaluable and gives our future doctors a ‘real world’ clinical skills learning experience that helps prepare them for their careers in the real world.

Volunteer session in Cairns
Volunteer patient and students in Townsville
Left: Fourth-year JCU Medicine students with JCU staff and volunteer simulated patient in Cairns. Right: Volunteer Leigh with third-year students Amy and Anson in Townsville.

A satisfying way to help the next generation of NQ doctors

Retired medical engineer Russell Clark says the program is an excellent use of his spare time. He’s been volunteering for six years now and enjoys being part of the students’ learning experience as well as forming friendships with the other volunteers.

“I usually do between seven to 12 sessions per semester, I quite enjoy helping the students, trying to make them into good doctors which is what it's all about,” Russell says.

“In first year they learn the vital signs so we help with that, in the second year the students give you an ECG – the first time I ever had an ECG was out here and they actually picked up an issue, nothing serious but I’ve been to a heart specialist as a result.

“With the third years we role play various scenarios and fourth years typically carry out physical examinations and I’ve done lots of those.”

Russell says he enjoys being recognised by students whilst out and about in Townsville.

“I also enjoy the social aspect with the other volunteers, we don't argue, we sometimes have some reasonably robust conversations, but we get on well, they're all very nice people. That it really is part of the pleasure of coming.”

Brand new volunteer Phil McIntyre says he signed up after hearing about the program from friends who were involved.

“I spend a lot of time doing community service work and I thought this is a really worthwhile project,” he says.

It was his second session when we caught up with him.

“I am already finding it enjoyable, it’s great to meet lovely young people who are trying to do something important, I think in life we need to do all we can to help our young people get to where they want to go,” he says.

Joan Brown and her husband are both VSPs.

“There is a lot of satisfaction when you work with the young students and you see them progress from year one to year two and on from there,” she says.

Long-term volunteer Peter Hibbert, who is 17 years in and still loving it, says donating his time in this way allows him to give back to the medical community.

“I actually had to spend many months in hospital in Melbourne and I was so well looked after. I saw this program on a poster at my local doctor’s and thought this seemed like a good way to return the favour,” he says.

“When I first started I think there were only about 12 volunteers. It was very much just you’re a body (the students) looked at, but since then it's evolved and now encompasses communication, role-playing, and history-taking. It keeps your mind really active.

“I've seen students right from year one right through to year five, and then you meet them outside as junior doctors.

“I was in the Mater last year and ran into a couple of doctors who were past students, it was great to reconnect with them and see them on the job.”

Peter says the future of medicine is certainly in good hands. He also speaks about the rewards of watching students progress right through from their medical interviews straight out of high school to graduating doctors.

JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry is actively looking for more volunteers for its Volunteer Simulated Patient program.

“Our volunteers, the contribution they make to our student experience, and the amount of time they give to us is just amazing,” Ms Waterson says.

“Our volunteers come from different backgrounds, there is no prior skill set required, they are solely donating their time to benefit our medical students.”

Find out more about how you can get involved in shaping our future doctors as a Volunteer Simulated Patient.

A group of volunteers at JCU’s Townsville campus all set to assist the third year students with their motivational interviews with JCU VSP coordinator Jessica Waterson.

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