For physician assistant students, Friday lessons are hands-on and lecture-free

By Alex Branch

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The physician assistant students huddled around Davey, a 5-year-old boy who wheezed and struggled to breathe.

Students studied his medical history chart and leaned down to talk to him on the exam table. They calmed Davey’s mother and watched his vital signs on a digital screen.

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Observing that he had a history of asthma and no other symptoms, such as fever or rash, the students concluded he was suffering from an asthma exacerbation. Davey received a medication to open his airways and a steroid as they prepared to transfer him to the hospital.

Then the simulated scene ended. Davey, a high-fidelity simulation mannequin, was out of danger.

“Great job, everyone,” said Kenya Samuels, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies. “You did a good job getting down to Davey’s level to talk to him. I did notice you worked more in subsets of teams rather than one cohesive team, and one cohesive team is what we want to achieve.”

This is Clinical Integrated Medicine (CIM), a new and collaborative hands-on course created to get Physician Assistant Studies Program students out of more traditional classrooms. Here on Fridays, they practice what they learned Monday through Thursday.

For students and faculty, it is a refreshing weekly break from lectures and PowerPoints.

“We used to consolidate practicing all the clinical skills and procedures into one month right before students all went on rotations,” said Tamara Willmoth, PA-C, Assistant Professor and CIM instructor. “Now students get to actually practice those skills right after learning and talking about them.”

Every Friday, students focus on different skills, such as obstetrics and gynecology, suturing, emergency medicine and more. PA Samuels taught the simulation with a high-fidelity mannequin in the Simulation Laboratory as part of a pediatric boot camp.

After diagnosing Davey, the students rotated to a pediatric dermatology station, then to a well-child basic station, and finally to a foreign object removal station. There, they learned what to do if a child gets something stuck in their ears or nose.

Students said they appreciate the new schedule.

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“It’s good because now we have a day where we aren’t learning any additional information; we are applying the information we have already learned,” said Savannah Vincent, a second-year PA student. “We’ve had lecture Monday through Friday in the past, and that’s harder.”

The launching of CIM is just one example of improvements to the PA program’s curriculum. Already recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s best, the program increased its efficiency by shortening the curriculum from 34 months to 30 months starting next fall.

“We’re always looking for ways to make our program even stronger,” said Kirk W. Barron, PhD, PA-C, Chairman of the Physician Assistant Studies Program.“Clinical Integrated Medicine is an example of something that benefits our students, staff and faculty.”

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