The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2019 American Academy of Physician Assistants Annual Meeting (AAPA 2019) in Denver, Colorado. Clinical Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading physician assistants. Check back for the latest news from AAPA 2019.


Although physician assistant (PA) students who completed their core clinical rotation were found to be more confident in patient communication and clinical assessment skills after receiving training on opioid-use disorder (OUD), students receiving didactic instruction also reported improved confidence following the OUD instruction, according to research presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) annual meeting, held May 18 to 22, 2019, in Denver, Colorado.

Students in the didactic Behavioral Medicine course at Mercer College of Health Professions in Atlanta, Georgia, participated in a lecture series on OUD that included standardized patients to simulate a realistic presentation of patients with clinical pain complaints and provided screening, diagnosis, and counseling techniques. Students in the clinical course received the same instruction following completion of their core clinical rotation. Faculty observers provided students with feedback on patient interaction, empathy, use of professional medical terminology, opioid risk and benefit assessment, universal monitoring strategies, and including patients in the treatment decision-making process.

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A survey administrated to both groups before and after the patient simulation assessed the students’ confidence in history taking, patient education and counseling, formulating a treatment plan, analyzing urine drug screen results, and overall OUD treatment knowledge. A total of 75 students completed the survey. Compared with students receiving didactic instruction, those who had completed their clinical rotation reported greater confidence in their ability to discuss abnormal urine drug screen results with patients, as well as their patient education and counseling skills. Following the patient simulation presentation, both cohorts demonstrated improved confidence; however, those who had completed their clinical rotation had higher perceived confidence in history-taking skills, patient education and counseling skills, and the ability to formulate a treatment plan.

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Although the results of this research demonstrate the overall benefit of integrating OUD instruction in PA education, “[d]etermining the most efficacious timing for the insertion of OUD training is beneficial, and allows for improved student confidence,” the authors concluded.

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Brown SD, Solh TM, Mattingly JR. Integration of medication-assisted treatment into the physician assistant curriculum: when is the best time? Presentation at: The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) Annual Meeting; May 18-22, 2019; Denver, CO. Poster 293.