Number 40 | Pretend to be sick for money …

Pretending to be sick and getting paid for it? That sounds like an awful advert but it’s actually what I’ve just started doing – being a medical simulator (i.e. the person who pretends to be kill or injured for medical students to practise their doctor skills on. Nothing invasive or surgery like, just simple questioning).

My first job was with a group of psychologists. I had two different characters to learn and play – Jade, 23, suffering from anorexia and another girl (whose name I don’t remember now) who was suffering from EUPD – a form of personality disorder.

Although we as actors had all the information on the characters we had to learn – medical and family history, symptoms, characteristics etc. – it must have been so much worse for the attending doctors. They had a minute to read a brief two-line description of who they were about to see and why they were there; something like, “You are seeing Jade, 23. Her mum has brought her here to discuss her eating.” That was it. That was followed by 11 minutes of chat between the “patients” and the doctor.

Now ordinarily, I am a very polite person. However, for one of those characters I had been told to play it as sarcastic and unfriendly. I don’t want to be at the appointment and I should make my feelings know. I apologised afterwards to each and every doctor who met me for having to go through that. But it wasn’t all bad for them – although they had to go round eight patients, on after the other with no break, each with different problems, they got some good ones. One guy had to be convinced that the government had implanted a chip in his neck. I can only long to play a character like that.

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