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Ex-Lawyers Make Good Pretend Patients for Med Students

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 18, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you've ever thought about an exit strategy from the legal profession, maybe you should know that ex-lawyers apparently make great "pretend patients."

What exactly are pretend patients, also known as standardized patients (or SPs)?

Simply put, they are hired actors or amateurs who are used to help educate medical students. Pretend patients are given a persona and a list of symptoms. TV's Kramer famously portrayed an SP with gonorrhea, describing "the burning" in a classic scene on Seinfeld.

They are then put in a room with an aspiring doctor, who is required to "examine" patients. Usually, the student will be monitored with a video camera by an instructor, who will then provide critiques to the student's performance.

Retired lawyers apparently fare well in these roles because they are good at memorization and recalling facts.

Pretend patients need to remember up to 20 different items that they will be debriefed on post-examination. Such as whether or not the student washed their hands. Or if the student performed some sort of physical examination in a certain area.

Before you rush off to call up the local medical school asking about vacancies, you should take a moment. The jobs don't seem to pay all that well. (Kramer never really did things for the money, after all.) You can earn between $17 and $35 an hour for most gigs. For more invasive jobs like vaginal or breast exams, you can get paid as much as $55 an hour.

Also, there's no guarantee that you'd find this line of work less stressful than your current legal job. Sometimes actors are required to work out difficult scenes, such as dealing with the loss of a child, according to The Washington Post.

Though becoming a pretend patient likely has its perks. You're helping a medical student hone their skills which can translate to a better bedside manner and better treatment for everybody else. At the least, it's something you can consider post-retirement.

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