OSCEs, or objective structured clinical examinations, are an integral part of the medical school curriculum. They involve you, a clinical scenario, and a standardized patient, who is an actor/actress portraying a real patient. In the span of 15-20 minutes, you work with the standardized patient to address the situation given to you and demonstrate your clinical skills and decision-making.
Throughout the year, OSCEs are sprinkled into my school’s curriculum to make sure students are consolidating skills we learn from doctoring and clinical skills courses. We are given scenarios that range from patients with anxiety to those with abdominal pain. Being in Los Angeles, the actors and actresses are understandably quite talented and emulate real patients quite well. In the time that we are given, we take a careful history, perform an appropriate physical exam, share information and advice, and do a post-encounter write-up. We are then evaluated by the standardized patient, as well as tutors who review a recorded video of the encounter.
I feel like OSCEs provide a good way to take skills learned in the classroom and apply them to a clinical setting. They also provide good preparation for 3rd year clerkships as well as the Step 2 Clinical Skills exam. One possible critique of OSCEs is that standardized patients don’t provide the same experience as a real patient. However, aside from not actually having the disease, standardized patients are otherwise excellent at simulating clinical conditions. Overall, OSCEs provide a quantifiable and consistent way for medical students to be evaluated in a clinical scenario.