Pre-clinical Experience for First Year PA Students

               One of the opportunities that is afforded to first year QU PA Program students is the ability to participate in the pre-clinical experience. One of the reasons that I was most drawn the QU program was for this very reason. The pre-clinical experience gives students the ability to gain clinical experience during the didactic year. This is not a shadowing experience. The pre-clinical experience allows students the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge and gain hands-on clinical experience during the didactic year, an experience that I have found to be a very valuable one.
                As part of this experience students are assigned to a preceptor who they will work with at a particular clinical site. My pre-clinical site is in an urgent care setting that is at Mid-State Walk-In Center in Wallingford, CT. Other students are working in private primary care offices, occupational health settings, emergency departments, or other hospital settings. During pre-clinical hours, students work closely alongside their preceptors. The pre-clinical allows students the opportunity to practice history taking, physicals, and to practice oral presentations.
                I have found my pre-clinical to come at a very opportune time, because in just three short months I will be starting full time clinical experiences. The clinical portion of the QU PA Program requires students to undertake 9 clinical rotations: 7 six week core rotations and 2 four week elective rotations. The thought of this is at times a little bit over whelming, however, I have found that I have gained so much confidence during my pre-clinical realizing that I am in fact learning how to apply classroom knowledge in real clinical practice. While I’m sure the full-time clinical rotation will be incredibly challenging, it is reassuring to know that I have at least had the opportunity to get my feet wet.   
 I always feel so excited to go to my pre-clinical site every week. Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed or bogged down with studying and school work, my pre-clinical experience serves as a reminder to me of what I am doing all this work for! While school work and a strong medical background are very important, the purpose of studying medicine really is to put all of that memorization and studying to good use to help a patient! I always feel such a sense of accomplishment when I see something at pre-clinical that I have heard about in a lecture, or seen in a textbook, or discussed in a class, and I have that “Eureka!” moment where everything finally comes together.

--Kaitlyn Kasinskas Physician Assistant 2013

Physician Assistant Trip to Washington D.C.

Hello readers! As promised, I would like to tell you about my recent trip to Washington D.C. Early Sunday morning of this past week, two of my classmates and several students from the QU PA Class of 2013, along with our program director, head down to D.C. for the annual American Academy of Physician Assistant Capitol Connection Conference. This conference focuses on PA advocacy—and what a gratifying experience it was!

During our first two days in D.C., we attended information sessions that recognized certain matters regarding the PA profession that need legislative and staff support to optimize patient care provided by physician assistants. We attended these sessions to prepare for the meetings we had scheduled on Wednesday with legislators and staff members on Capitol Hill. During the information sessions, we learned about advocacy and it’s relevance and importance to the PA profession. We learned techniques to advocate effectively and became knowledgeable of certain areas revolving around the PA profession that need legislative support.

For instance, one of the major topics revolved around PAs and hospice care. Although physician assistants are trained and capable of providing hospice care, when a patient elects to use the Medicare hospice benefit, the PAs providing care are not reimbursed for their services. Therefore, if a patient has a PA as their primary care provider, this not only creates a discontinuity of care, but also creates significant distress for a patient at a time when they are most vulnerable. Another issue we became educated on was making PAs eligible for Medicaid EHR Incentive payments. This incentive was initially designed for physicians, dentists, and nurse practitioners, with the idea that PAs would be grouped with the physicians. However, this is not the case. This is a glitch in the writing and requires further modification in order to optimize healthcare provided by PAs. The other two areas we learned about revolved around enabling PAs to care for federal workers injured on the job and also ensuring continued federal support of the PA educational programs through Title VII. As you can see, these are all important matters revolving around the PA profession and it was great to be a part of PA advocacy and work for change to enhance patient care.

After preparing to meet with staff and legislators, we head to The Hill on Tuesday for our scheduled meetings. We met with staff from Connecticut to discuss the several areas of concern. It was a great experience! We organized our thoughts ahead of time and each of us students participated to effectively get our points across. The staff members were all very interested in what we had to say and showed enthusiasm in our ideas and concerns. It was a rewarding experience. Especially when Rep. Rosa DeLauro met with us and explained how she loves the work we do as students and future health care providers and supports the PA profession. So awesome to hear!

Although advocacy was the main focus of the trip, it wasn’t just about meetings and information sessions. It was a time for us to build the QU PA Team. We went out to dinner, went sightseeing, and shared tons of laughs together! There was never a dull moment and I enjoyed getting closer with my classmates and getting to know to some of the first year PA students. I’ve always considered the Quinnipiac Physician Assistant Program to be a unified team and I loved having the opportunity to strengthen the unity we share.

--Stephanie Colella, Physician Assistant Student 2012

Physician Assistant Students Service Trip to Dominican Republic

Every year during winter break, first year QU Physician Assistant students have the opportunity to travel to the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic to work in community-based chronic care clinics established by the organization Health Horizons International. This year, six first year PA students, myself included, spent a week during this past January participating in this Medical Service Trip alongside five Connecticut family physicians. During the trip we had the opportunity to set up clinics in communities such as Negro Melo, Severet, and Pancho Mateo.
In each community we set up our clinic area in churches, homes, or community centers. During our time spent in the clinics we had the opportunity to practice our clinical skills by volunteering in in-take and triage stations, running lab tests, and filling prescriptions in the pharmacy. We were fortunate enough to have two fluent Spanish speaking students with us to assist with the in-take station!
While in Puerto Plata, we also had the wonderful opportunity of observing the physicians as they interacted with the patients. At this time, we also got the chance to practice our interviewing and history taking skills as well as an opportunity to perform some focused physicals with physician supervision. During my time on this trip I gained the experience of working with medical interpreters to interact with patients. This was a great experience as I realize that I will be working with non-English speaking patients as well as interpreters quite often when I get out into practice as a PA.
During our time in the Puerto Plata we also had the opportunity to interact with Tufts University students who were carrying out a community health research project in the same communities where we were running our clinics. The QU PA Program takes a very inter-disciplinary approach to teaching their students about medicine, patient interaction, and patient education. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to interact with these community health researchers as we were able to discuss our different experiences. The Tufts students were able to learn more about our interactions in the clinics and the QU PA students were able to learn more about the views that our patients had regarding health and healthcare. This Medical Service Trip was one of the best experiences I have had during the first year of the PA Program so far and I highly recommend that future students look into participating in this experience.

--Kaitlyn Kasinskas Physician Assistant 2013

The PA Program Winding Down

Wait it’s 2012? And it’s ALREADY February!?” These are the thoughts that have been consistently flying in my head lately. I cannot believe it! The time just seems to be zipping by right in front of me. Today, was the first day of rotation 7 for us second year PA students. That is, 7 out of 9. Seriously, when did we come so close to the end?

We had our 6th “call-back” this past Friday. We took an exam and met with our professors to go over certain upcoming events, such as community service events, projects, papers, exams, etc. So as you can see, although the end is approaching, there is still SO much for us to get done and so much for us to accomplish. It’s an exiting feeling, but definitely can be overwhelming. In just a few months we will be approaching the end of PA school and the beginning of our career. It can be quite scary. For me, I have not ever taken a break from school. In fact, when I graduated from Quinnipiac with my bachelor’s degree, I started PA school the following week. So it’s quite an interesting feeling to ALMOST see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that we just have a few more months!

You might think that hearing this, makes us second years approaching the end develop a little bit of “senioritis”, but in fact, I think its quite the opposite. We have all these things to do, and all this “stuff” to cram into our brains. Within months, we will be expected to care for our own patients and their lives will be in our hands. With that said, there is no room for slacking, but only room for improvement and growth.

PA school is a fast pace learning experience. However, I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity. I just finished my 6th rotation. I was assigned for internal medicine to the Hospital of St. Raphael’s in New Haven. I was very excited to be assigned to this hospital, because believe it or not, I was actually born there! It was a great experience. The first 4 weeks, I worked with the residents and was helping take care of patients in oncology. It was an extremely interesting and rewarding experience. The patients were so appreciative of everything that we did. Not to mention, I learned not even one thing everyday, but it seemed that every minute I was learning something else. After those 4 weeks, I worked with the physician assistants on a medicine floor. Again, a similar experience, but these patients seemed to be in and out of the hospital much quicker than the oncology patients. Still, both were great experiences. In addition to taking histories, completing physicals, developing differential diagnoses, learning the appropriate therapeutic regimens and management plans, I was also able to learn bedside procedures such as arterial blood gases and lumbar punctures. Everyday was a new adventure and I am very thankful for another great experience.

So as you can see, being a Quinnipiac PA Student, is definitely demanding. We have pretty intense schedules and a great deal of commitment. However, it is an amazing and exhilarating adventure.

In a few weeks, I will be traveling with several classmates (including both first and second year PA students) and a few members of the Quinnipiac PA Faculty to Washington D.C. to promote advocacy for PAs. Hopefully in my next blog, I can tell you all about this experience. Until then, thanks for reading!

-Stephanie Colella, Physician Assistant Student 2012