Standardized Performance Assessment Laboratory Osteopathic Medical Teaching

Developed in 1996, the Standardized Performance Assessment Laboratory (SPAL) at Des Moines University gives medical students exceptional opportunities to experience clinical scenarios before they treat actual patients. Students are able to practice their professionalism, communication, organization, clinical reasoning and examination skills without risk to themselves or their patients.

Standardized patients are trained to simulate patients with physical conditions such as chest pain, sensory loss, joint restriction, cancer, chronic disease, muscle weakness and emotional or behavioral problems. During a SPAL practical session, students review a patient’s presenting information and complete a history and physical examination (no invasive exams or tests) as appropriate. Following the encounter the learners document their findings in writing or give an oral presentation to faculty who provide feedback regarding their interviewing/examination/presentation skills and the student/patient relationship. Standardized patients also offer written or verbal feedback regarding a student’s interpersonal skills.

This does not only benefit the students! With the exposure to varried clinical scenarios, the reviewing faculty and professionals are able to reinforce what they learned in their education and clinical practice. They are also able to learn from students directly by interpreting and responding to student/patient interactions. This experience gives professionals the opportunity to demonstrate and apply knowledge of accepted standards of clinical medicine, enhance leadership and communication skills, advocate for patient welfare and adherence to ethical principles, and integrate evidence-based medicine into patient care.

SPAL is part of Des Moines University’s commitment to providing experiential learning opportunities for professionals and students alike. 


This course addresses the development of the following American Osteopathic Association Core Competencies:

  • Osteopathic Philosophy, Principles and Practice
  • Medical knowledge
  • Patient care
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Practice-based learning and Improvement
  • Systems-based Practice
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 50.00 AOA Category 1­A
Course opens: 
Course expires: 

Continuing Education Credit

DO: Des Moines University (DMU) is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) to provide osteopathic continuing medical education for physicians. DMU designates this program for a maximum of 50.0 AOA Category 1-A credits and will report CME and specialty credits commensurate with the extent of the physician’s participation in this activity.

Available Credit

  • 50.00 AOA Category 1­A


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