How to get the most out of physician assistant clinical rotations

SAN FRANCISCIO — Although clinical rotations are a stressful aspect of physician assistant education, students have many resources available to them to make the most out of the experience, Cynthia Booth Lord, MHS, PA-C, Founding PA Program Director, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, said at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2015 meeting.

“It's really easy to go back and read everything again, but it takes up too much time,” said Lord. “The information is in students' brains, they just need to brush up on it.”

Physician assistant (PA) students aren't going to have everything memorized at the start of their didactic period, said Katz, but engaging in clinical rotations help gain, enhance, and build the clinical knowledge that will eventually become second nature.

There are a bounty of resources that PA students can use to help with their clinical rotations. Lord suggested the following: 

  • CDC child and adult vaccination schedules: Knowing both adult and pediatric vaccination schedules is a crucial piece of knowledge for PA students. The CDC provides up-to-date information for free on their website
  • Travel medicine guide: The government's travel medicine resource isn't just for clinicians interested in practicing abroad. “Students can use this app to help patients plan for international trips,” said Lord.
  • Minority and demographic health guide: The government has its most recent information on health issues specific to minority patients and other demographics. Before students start their clinical rotations, it's important to research the make up of the patient population where they'll be practicing
  • Antibiotic therapy: Johns Hopkins University provides a free download for clinicians about the latest information in antibiotic management for children and adults
  • WhoNamedIt.com: a dictionary of medical eponyms, this free resource is a fun way to help PA students remember all they need to know, especially during surgery rotations

Beyond resources to help keep clinical information fresh, Lord also emphasized the importance of oral presentation skills. “More preceptors tell me that's how they judge students. They'll figure out how much you know based on how you present yourself,” said Lord.

To ace oral presentations, Lord suggests that students have their opening statement ready — include age, gender, chief complaint, and summarize your information. Students need to have their subjective, objective, assessment, and plan (SOAP) presentation skills down pat. “The A and P parts are what students really need to develop in order to succeed during clinical presentations,” noted Lord. 

Another important note for PA students is to take physician feedback in stride. “Physicians are going to interrupt you, and already they're going to jump the gun — put your flap jacket on, don't cry, and don't take it personally,” she said. “Remember, it's a privilege and an honor to practice medicine. Know your insight and make your own opportunities.”

References

  1. Lord C. “SPARK: Surviving Clinical Rotations.” Presented at: Presented at: AAPA 2015. May 23-27, 2015. San Francisco, California.
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