Background Real patients in clinical placements are important for learning and may well be the ‘gold standard’. However, simulated patients (SPs) are a viable alternative in the absence of this opportunity. While adult SPs contribute to health professions education, child and adolescent simulated patients (CASPs) are less common. This research aims to explore the perspectives of healthcare educators regarding the engagement of young SPs, specifically the identification of barriers and enablers to involving CASPs.
Methods We used an interpretive paradigm of qualitative description. Thirteen interviewees, all educators involved in SP programmes, participated in semistructured interviews. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive thematic approach.
Findings Not all participants saw value in engaging CASPs. A number of barriers and enablers to involving them were acknowledged in six themes: challenges and concerns; logistical barriers; benefits of CASPs; overcoming challenges; an ethical minefield; and child safety. Opinions differed with respect to feasibility and necessity for involving CASPs, particularly in the hospital setting where real patients are accessible. All participants articulated the critical importance of ensuring adequate support and adherence to ethical principles if CASPs were involved.
Conclusions The involvement of CASPs in health professions education is a divisive issue. CASPs’ ability to provide a realistic option for supporting learning is recognised yet perhaps not wholly perceived as a feasible alternative to real patients. Their engagement raises critical ethical, practical, logistical and financial challenges.
- simulated patient
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Individual participant data that underlie the results have been reported in the article after deidentification.
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