Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
Getting Paid to Play Sick at School
Some people act sick to get out of work. Others act sick to get work. For medical actors like Ted Bell, the stage is an examination room with a future doctor, nurse or other health care professional. On a recent day, he was playing a fifty-five-year-old patient with stomach pains that began three months ago. He was describing the problem to a nursing student at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
Ted Bell was playing a schoolteacher. But in a way he really does teach. He helps future doctors, nurses and other health care professionals learn to work with patients. In real life, Mr. Bell is a retired civil engineer. He now works as what is known as a "standardized patient." He stays busy working as one of about seven hundred standardized patients in the Baltimore-Washington area. Pay starts at seventeen dollars an hour. It can go as high as thirty-five dollars an hour depending on the project. Becoming a standardized patient does not require medical knowledge.
The schools provide the training. Nor does it require acting experience. In fact, standardized patient Tom Wyatt is a professional actor -- yet he does not even think of his work with the students as acting. He says, "I use some of the acting skills, but honestly when its going well, I'm not really acting, I am reacting. I'm listening to them and reacting naturally and honestly to what they're saying to me and what they're giving me." Standardized patients spend hours training for each of their "performances." They have to remember the medical history of the person they are playing and be able to answer questions as if they were really sick. Tom Wyatt says remembering all the patients he has to play and their conditions can be difficult. "Especially when I do, you know, sometimes nine or ten cases in a week at three different hospitals, so they're all completely different."
After each session the standardized patients talk to the students to discuss their performance -- that is, the performance of the student. For instance, he recently told one student nurse practitioner, "The things that really stood out for me: your manner was extremely professional. And you were in command at all times. You kind of took charge of the room." The students say they like working with medical actors. And the actors enjoy it, too. Ted Bell says the students find the experience very helpful, and that makes him feel good.
For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. Get more news and learn English at voaspecialenglish.com.