The Understudy

“I was walking with my husband on the high street and suddenly collapsed…”

There’s a whole lot of waiting going on

I learned the lines – but, as the Simulated Patient reserve, didn’t get the opportunity to say them!

The occasion was the mock sessions for exams junior doctors have to sit in order to become registrars.

So, as part of their assessment of their ability to carry out essential clinical skills, they get to meet – and diagnose – different “patients” in front of the examiners.

The idea rather reminded me of speed-dating, as you only have a few minutes for the candidates to come in and assess your case – although, unlike speed-dating, you do have to stick rigidly to the same case history!

Apps are available – but I learned my lines the old-fashioned way!

As we gathered in the waiting area, I asked the woman next to me if she’d learned her lines.

“I’ve been told I can’t say anything”.


She went on to tell me she’d had a kidney transplant, whereupon a man sitting opposite grinned and piped-up “So have I!”

The doctors are assessed mainly on their ability to diagnose “real-life” patients, shown here in a London hospital

Turned-out the vast majority of people in the room were real patients, with conditions the doctors would assess in a physical examination.

The designated Simulated Patients arrived, and the first of two sessions began.

I asked the organiser if the candidates would be able to tell who the genuine patients were and who was acting – but was just told  the SPs had to remain in character.

I guess they’d have a fair idea though!60497201

Another SP, Push (“It’s Pushvinder but call me Push”), was tasked with playing an asthmatic fireman who feared he’d lose his job because of his condition.

My  (unperformed) character, a 49-year-old computer technician, lost consciousness and collapsed in town, her husband unable to support her weight as she slumped to the ground – like me, she drinks too much wine, unlike me, she smokes 10 to 15 cigarettes a day and uses marajuana at weekends.

These – and other details – had to be remembered.

Decent reading material is essential!

Now, I haven’t had to learn lines since I was in the school play (Nicole the maid in Moliere’s “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”!) .

I did this the old-fashioned, time-honoured way by reading them then reciting back in my head, but felt I needed a bit of a prompt, so a Google search yielded support to a brain less retentive than that of a 10-year-old in the form of an App called Script Rehearser which I downloaded on my phone.

Alas, I wasn’t able to really get on with it – so resorted to recording the script on my Android then playing it back as I did things like making a cup  of coffee, putting my makeup on, etc.

Another SP, Nicola, a trained actor who regularly does a lot of amateur dramatics, also downloaded Script Rehearser but had no better luck than I had.

I didn’t get to have a go as a Simulated Patient on this occasion – I but I was told they were still grateful I was there as a standby.

In any case, I had no problems with sitting for hours reading a Jilly Cooper novel, eating too many free sandwiches – and getting paid for it!



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