Nurse Practitioner Students Diagnose and Treat Actors

York College nurse practitioner (NP) students participate in a gerontologic case simulation in a new course, Comprehensive Care of Older Adults. Actors, called standardized patients (SPs), portray an elderly patient and her daughter during a primary care clinic appointment. Each  NP student will interview and assess the patient, diagnose the presenting problem, and decide on the treatment.

Professor Susan Scherr, faculty member and gerontologic nurse practitioner, teaches the course. She said, “This will help students understand some of the challenges of caring for elderly patients.” The actors portray situations commonly seen in patients: functional problems such as difficulty hearing or cognitive problems such as confusion.

In accordance with new national requirements, adult NP programs must include content on the older adult. Graduates of these programs will be certified as adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) and provide primary care for adolescents, adults, and older adults.

‌AGNP coursework and clinical experience emphasize patient centered evidence-based practice, collaboration with members of the health care team, advocacy for vulnerable, high risk adult populations, and leadership in improving the quality and safety of health care.

Marian Rubach, Standardized Patient Educator from WellSpan Health, provides and trains the SPs.




Professor Scherr uses simulation labs in Diehl Hall for this experience; faculty observe the SP interaction from a control room.

Dr. Andrea Wolf, director of the nurse practitioner program, is an advocate of standardized patient experiences. She says, “These situations challenge our students to handle both the medical and psychosocial needs of their patients.”


Photo: Professor Susan Scherr, MS, GNP-BC, prepares nurse practitioner students George Donavos (left) and Wayne Lawver for the standardized patient case simulation.