Applying positioning theory to examine interactions between simulated patients and medical students: A narrative analysis

Sally Sargeant*, Michelle McLean, Patricia Green, Patricia Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In their journey to becoming doctors, students engage with a range of teachers and trainers. Among these are simulated patients (SPs), who, through role-playing, assist students to develop their communication and physical examination skills, in contexts of formative and summative assessments. This paper explores the teaching and learning relationship between medical students and SPs, and considers how this might affect feedback and assessment. 14 SPs were interviewed on the subject of medical students’ professional identity development in 2014. Data were examined using narrative analysis in conjunction with positioning theory to identify the positions that SPs assigned to themselves and to students. Narrative analysis yielded three interpretative positioning themes: Occupational, familial and cultural and discursive and embodied positioning. The interview process revealed that SPs adopt different positions intra-and interpersonally. SPs appear to hold dissonant perceptions of students in terms relating to their emerging professional identities, which may confound assessment and feedback. Training should include reflections on the SP/student relationship to uncover potential biases and positions, giving SPs the opportunity to reflect on and manage their individual and occupational selves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


Cite this