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.


Service learning in the form of community-based projects, combined with interprofessional education, may provide a solution to physician assistant (PA) students’ lack of preparation in collaborating with interprofessional teams to improve patient safety, according to research presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2019 annual meeting held May 18 to 22, 2019, in Denver, Colorado.

A team of investigators from the Reno School of Medicine Physician Assistant Studies Program at the University of Nevada, propose to conduct a study to determine the required interprofessional education skills that PAs need and which curricular activities best enable students to obtain these skills, and then measure the association between the delivery of these activities in the curriculum and outcomes focused on student knowledge and attitudes about working on interprofessional teams. Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) competency domains will be used to identify the desired interprofessional education skills.

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The curriculum design will include classroom instruction on IPEC domains, service learning, and community awareness, as well as interactive interprofessional learning activities with university health professions programs and student engagement projects.

Matriculated PA students will complete a pre-test to establish baseline parameters; post-test assessments will measure acquisition of knowledge and attitudes about working on interprofessional teams. The post-tests will be administered after the completion of interprofessional didactic education, after half of the students complete their interprofessional service learning projects, and after all students have completed their projects in the clinical phase of training.

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“Given the opportunities to have real world interprofessional health care experiences using service learning curriculum, it is expected that students will achieve competency in [interprofessional education] as assessed by an improvement in their knowledge, skills and attitude scores in the survey instrument and through one on one interviews,” the authors wrote.

“By determining that a service learning component to interprofessional education achieves positive outcomes in student knowledge and attitudes about working on interprofessional teams and patient-centered care, other UNR health professions programs may adopt this project as a validated curriculum for their students,” concluded the investigators.

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Thomas J, Packman J. Service learning promotes acquisition of interprofessional education competency. Presentation at: American Academy of Physician Assistants Annual Meeting; May 18-22, 2019; Denver, CO. Poster 168.