We started off in the spring of 2012 with a few dedicated SPs who volunteered to act as simulated patients for medical students. Up until that time, students were practicing English medical interviews through role-playing with peers. Although SPs were already playing an important role in Japanese medical education by then, only the Japanese speaking SPs were involved. The English-speaking SPs helped students gain authentic experience in interviewing patients in English.
The English-speaking SPs were trained in acting, speaking, and on giving effective feedback to the students. Feedback focuses on not only the English language but also their communication skills, professionalism, sensitivity to cultural differences, understanding of the patient’s illness, etc. The interviews were performed as part of class work in the classrooms at Tokyo Medical University, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine and University of Tokyo.
With the increasing importance placed on English communication skills in healthcare, more universities started to ask the SPs to work with their students. Akita University was one of the first, and the SPs continue to go to Akita twice a year since December 2012. We are now regularly doing interviews at The Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo Medical University, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, St. Luke’s International University, and St. Christopher’s University in various capacities. We have also worked with Tokushima University, Keio University, Kyorin University, Okayama University and Kobe Pharmaceutical University.
With the World Rugby Championship and the Olympics coming to Japan, the need for healthcare professionals to be able to communicate in English is becoming increasingly important. We hope this association will expand so that we can help future and working healthcare professionals become capable to better care for foreign patients.