About ASPE

In 1963 a neurologist by the name of Howard Barrows discovered that a lay person could be trained to simulate illness and give feedback to medical students about their history and communication skills. He called this person a simulated patient and defined it as “a person who has been carefully coached to simulate an actual patient so accurately that the simulation cannot be detected by a skilled clinician. In performing the simulation, the SP presents the gestalt of the patient being simulated; not just the history, but the body language, the physical findings, and the emotional and personality characteristics as well." Gradually, the use of the simulated patient began to grow in medical education. Educators found that simulated patients offered not only a variety of teaching opportunities for students, but also opportunities for testing student performance. Out of this testing environment grew the term “standardized patient” or “SP.”


As Gayle Gliva-McConvey explains, “An SP is a person trained to portray a patient scenario, or an actual patient using their own history and physical exam findings, for the instruction, assessment, or practice of communication and/or examining skills of a health care provider. In the health and medical sciences, SPs are used to provide a safe and supportive environment conducive for learning or for standardized assessments. SPs can serve as practice models, or participate in sophisticated assessment and feedback of learner’s abilities or services. The use of simulated scenarios involving humans is rapidly expanding to meet the needs of many high-risk service fields outside of human health care."


As simulated/standardized patient methodology grew, educators felt a need to develop an organization that could foster the growth of the profession that was creating and supporting this new methodology. Thus, in 2001, the Association of Standardized Patients was formed. Since that time, our membership has grown along with the concept of standardized patients. Its use has expanded into many fields including dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and allied health professions. Over the last decade, three simulation modalities have become intertwined - scenarios may now include SPs, task trainers and/or manikins; commonly known as “hybrid” simulations.


For more detailed history of ASPE’s role in the development of SP methodology, click here.

Mission Statement

ASPE is the international organization of simulation educators dedicated to:

  • Promoting best practices in the application of SP methodology for education, assessment and research
  • Fostering the dissemination of research and scholarship in the field of SP methodology
  • Advancing the professional knowledge and skills of its members

Transforming professional performance through the power of human interaction.