Graduate students’ experiences with standardized patients as adjuncts for teaching pelvic examinations


  • Rosemary Theroux RNC, PhD,

    (Assistant Professor), Corresponding author
    1. Graduate School of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts
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  • Carole Pearce RNC, PhD

    (Professor Emeritus)
    1. College of Health and Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
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Rosemary Theroux, RNC, PhD, University of Massachusetts Worcester, Graduate School of Nursing, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655. Tel: 508 856 5744; Fax: 508 856 5851; E-mail:


Purpose: To explore graduate nurse practitioner students’ perceptions of their experiences when learning to perform pelvic examinations in the laboratory and performing them in subsequent clinical rotations. One group was taught by faculty with voluntary peer examination, and the other two groups were taught by standardized patients (SPs).

Data sources: Surveys with open- and closed-ended (responses on Likert scales) items administered twice during 3 consecutive years to students enrolled in an advanced health assessment course.

Conclusions: All groups reported feeling anxious while learning pelvic exam techniques and in subsequent clinical experiences. SPs provided immediate feedback to students, decreased their feelings of anxiety, and increased their confidence in performing examinations. Students who were taught pelvic examination techniques by SPs rated their learning experiences more positively and reported a better understanding of exam techniques than students who learned to perform exams by voluntary examination of classmates.

Implications for practice: Graduate nursing programs should consider locating and using SP programs for teaching pelvic examinations in advanced health assessment courses. Although more cost-effective, voluntary peer examination was a less effective teaching method.