Landing the Role of a Lifetime

Hearing the Call:  A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation

By Kerensa Peterson

Sometimes, a place just feels right, like home.  When I entered the Clinical Education Center for the first time, I immediately felt calm—an unusual feeling before an audition.  When I arrived, I made my way to a chair in the back of the room where I had a great view of Harvey, the heart simulator.  I wondered how he might fit into this audition scenario.  Two gentlemen walked in and introduced themselves as trainers to a room full of expectant actors.  I was hooked – from the moment they started to explain the role of a Standardized Patient.  I have never before had such a relaxing and intriguing audition…

I got the part.  As I began working with medical students, I kept thinking, “How can I make this my life’s work?”  I was training and coaching teachers during the day and acting at night, so engaging in medical education from the perspective of a Standardized Patient made perfect sense.  Before long, I asked the director of the program if she needed help training SPs.  She said she was working on expanding the team as the program was growing and would keep me in mind.

A few years later a full-time trainer position opened.  I was working as a manager in a different kind of education center at the time, but I knew I had to do this work.

I got the job – my dream job.  It’s important, rewarding and challenging work in an academic environment where I learn and grow every day.  I help healthcare learners and practitioners develop themselves as empathetic communicators and train SPs to help future physicians connect with their patients.  This work holds a satisfaction that compares to nothing else.  I think I’ll be at home here for a long time.

Kerensa Peterson, MFA
, serves as a standardized patient trainer at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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