My Job Title Is Medical Actor

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My job title is Medical Actor, which means I play sick. I get paid by the hour. Medical students guess my maladies. I’m called a Standardized Patient, which means I act toward the norms of my disorders. I’m standardized-lingo SP for short. I’m fluent in the symptoms of preeclampsia and asthma and appendicitis. I play a mom whose baby has blue lips. Medical acting works like this: you get a script and a paper gown. You get $13.50 an hour. Our scripts are ten to twelve pages long. They outline what’s wrong with us—not just what hurts but how to express it. They tell us how much to give away, and when. We are supposed to unfurl the answers according to specific protocols. The scripts dig deep into our fictive lives: the ages of our children…show more content…
You can’t remember your seizures but are told you froth at the mouth and yell obscenities. You can usually feel a seizure coming before it arrives. The seizures began two years ago, shortly after your older brother drowned in the river just south of the Bennington Avenue Bridge. He was swimming drunk after a football tailgate. You and he worked at the same mini-golf course. These days you don’t work at all. These days you don’t do much. You’re afraid of having a seizure in public. No doctor has been able to help you. Your brother’s name was Will. MEDICATION HISTORY: You are not taking any medications. You’ve never taken antidepressants. You’ve never thought you needed them. MEDICAL HISTORY: Your health has never caused you any trouble. You’ve never had anything worse than a broken arm. Will was there when it was broken. He was the one who called for the paramedics and kept you calm until they came. Our simulated exams take place in three suites of purpose-built rooms. Each room is fitted with an examination table and a surveillance camera. We test second- and third-year medical students in topical rotations: pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry. On any given day of exams, each student must go through “encounters”—their technical title—with three or four actors playing different cases. A student might have to palpate a woman’s ten-on-a-scale-of-ten pain in her lower abdomen, then sit across from a delusional young lawyer and tell him that when he feels a
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