A Day in the Life at UNMC

A man for all symptoms

Standardized patient Gary Javitch gives a masterful performance while being examined by physician assistant student Megan Punt.

Standardized patient Gary Javitch gives a masterful performance while being examined by physician assistant student Megan Punt.

JERRY: What’s with the fake sneezing?

KRAMER: Yeah, we’re going down to Mt. Sinai Hospital. See they hire actors to help the students practice diagnosing.

MICKEY: They assign you a specific disease and you act out the symptoms. It’s an easy gig.

JERRY: Do medical schools actually do this?

KRAMER: Well, the better ones. Alright, let’s practice retching.

Standardized patient Gary Javitch gives a masterful performance while being examined by physician assistant student Megan Punt.

Gary Javitch goes over his woes: “I’ve had back ache, leg ache, appendicitis, schizophrenia, alcoholism,” he said.

And none of that was the worst of it.

“My ex-wife perhaps gave me a venereal disease,” he said.

Oh … oh, my.

No small roles …

But don’t worry. These are just roles Gary plays. He is what is known as a standardized patient – he helps UNMC students prepare for careers as health care professionals.

It’s simulation training. Would you call it acting?

“I have no idea if I went on a stage, if I would be a failure. But in a one-to-one situation, I guess it’s believable,” Gary said.

He’s done this for more than 17 years.

He brings humanity

He’ll often get a script at the beginning of the week (he sometimes does up to 20 hours a month of “standardized” work). But Gary and other SPs do more than just act out diseases.

They can teach students how to deliver bad news; how to treat patients as people.

“It isn’t just book facts. It’s poise under pressure. It’s clinical skills and critical thinking,” said Karen Schrader, a UNMC physician assistant in Internal Medicine who trains and prepares standardized patients.

You can’t duplicate that. Except, with people like Gary, sometimes you can.

Method acting

And sometimes it isn’t acting. When he talks about doing a complete history and physical, he means actually getting into a gown …

“Everything but a rectal exam,” he said.

OK!

But, wait, that still means …

“I help them learn how to do a hernia check,” he said.

Talk about an actor who does his own stunts.

Seasoned pro

He is a senior SP. Standardized patients are not volunteers, but trained professionals, part-time on-call employees. UNMC has a core of about 60 people who serve this vital function. And they’re good.

“We’ve had students, when the exam was over, ask the SP, ‘Are you OK?’ ” SP coordinator Dan Brick said.

Not to worry. Gary gets a lot of physicals. “I know exactly what my blood pressure is,” he said. “I get it checked three or four times a month.”

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