Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



First Advisor

Frank L. Steeves

Second Advisor

Thomas J. Martin


The education of students in the health professions has always and will continue to include interaction with real patients. Contact with actual patients is a very motivating experience for students . Students are able to interview, examine, and treat patients under the supervision of a teacher or clinician who fills the role of the teacher. There is an opportunity for the student to establish a rapport with the patient. Students gain hands-on experience in this type of situation and can follow through and see the actual consequences of their actions (Barrows & Tamblyn 1980, p. 58}. Their problem-solving skills are refined. Supervised clinical practice is the best way to develop clinical judgement (Hoffer & Barnette 1976, p. 53}.

There are however, a number of disadvantages to using real patients in all situations. The appropriate patient may not be available when needed (Barrows & Tamblyn 1980, p. 59). It is impossible to predict accurately when people with certain types of diseases or conditions will be available. Nonetheless, it is necessary for an instructor to plan the learning experiences in advance. Class lecture and discussion of a specific problem should precede contact with a real patient. Even when a patient with the condition prepared for is available at a facility, emergencies for the patient or clinical teacher could cancel a learning situation. An x-ray or lab test may delay or curtail patient-student contact. The patient may cancel or be late for an appointment. If no patient with that disability is available, a substitute may present an interesting and unique problem of value to student learning. However, effectiveness of the learning situation has certainly diminished when no preparation has been done.