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Patient Educ Couns. 2007 Jul;67(1-2):13-20. Epub 2007 May 9.

The use of simulated patients and role-play in communication skills training: a review of the literature to August 2005.

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Nursing, Health and Social Care Research Centre, Cardiff University, School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, Cardiff CF24 0AB, UK.



To assess whether the practice and rehearsal of communication skills is likely to lead to better outcomes following training, and whether the use of simulated patients in training is likely to be superior to role-play in terms of communication skill acquisition.


The databases Medline, Amed, Cinahl, BNI, Embase, Psychinfo and HMIC were searched for articles which compared the use of simulated patients and/or role-play in training healthcare practitioners in acquiring communication skills.


Most studies appear to indicate that outcomes are better in communication skills training programs where skills practice has taken place. However, a number of methodological weaknesses make concrete conclusions difficult to draw. There was just one study that directly compared the use of role-play with simulated patients. This found no significant difference in outcomes between the two methods.


There is a need for more well-designed studies that assess skill acquisition following the use of simulated patients and/or role-play in a number of different settings.


Simulated patients and role-play are frequently used in teaching communication skills worldwide. Given the expense of using simulated patients, educators should be made aware of cheaper alternatives that may be equally effective in facilitating the acquisition of communication skills.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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