Informed Practice: Students' Clinical Experiences in the Undergraduate Phase of an Accelerated Physician Assistant Program

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Abstract

This qualitative study explored the clinical experiences of students in an accelerated physician assistant (PA) program. The participants were either certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or emergency medical technicians–basic (EMTs-B). The study was designed to elicit (1) how the participants perceived their older patients and (2) how the participants' experiences might affect their own future communications, bedside manner, and clinical preparedness as PAs. This study used a focus group to explore students' clinical experiences before the graduate phase of their accelerated PA program. Five female and 2 male PA students (N = 7) participated in the study. All participants were 23 years old and worked as either a CNA or an EMT-B. Results fell into 2 basic themes: informing practice and forming relationships. Regarding the first theme, participants felt that their experience as entry-level health care providers allowed them to improve their communication skills and bedside manner and to provide greater comfort to patients. Regarding the second theme, participants gained appreciation for older people and began to recognize the knowledge deficits and learning needs of their patients. The results suggested that a student's clinical experience as a CNA or an EMT-B before entering a PA program has a positive effect on the student's personal and professional development. The participants acquired greater appreciation and respect for older patients and members of the health care team.

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