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Simulation for PA Education and Assessment

October 15, 2012

“We were using Standardized Patients and simulation back in the mid-90s. Our students were required to complete Standardized Patient exercises before graduation. Back then, it was a way for us to evaluate what the students had learned. Now, though, we’re using it as an education tool in every single course,” said Nina Multak, Assistant Clinical Professor in the PA Department.

At the College of Nursing and Health Professions, students have access to a state-of-the-art simulation lab, which includes case and scenario building software, Standardized Patient actors, and a critical skills lab. The facility offers both education and assessment opportunities for students and provides research opportunities for faculty. For the Physician Assistant Program, the teamwork building activities completed in the lab contribute significantly to the interprofessional aspect of the curriculum. PA students and faculty are also given the chance to conduct research in the Simulation Lab with four partnering PA programs in the Philadelphia region.

The Simulation Lab provides a safe place for students to make errors, review medical scenarios, collaborate on issues, and improve their skills communicating with doctors, nurses, fellow PAs, and other health professionals. Nina said, “It bridges the educational experience from classroom to hands-on patient exposure while maximizing their safety. It also provides a chance to educate students about the intersecting roles of each profession in the clinical setting.” In a very structured manner, Simulation Lab exercises help PA students see role delineations and learn to work as a team.

Faculty members worked together to develop a curricular thread that uses Standardized Patients in each didactic course as well as in clinical rotations. Students conduct patient histories not as a test but for practice, and the faculty use Standardized Patients to provide feedback to their students. The students take a medical history, conduct a physical exam, and counsel the Standardized Patients. Manikins, on the other hand, are used to simulate a variety of problems during interdisciplinary exercises with students from other programs and with medical school students. Working as a team helps PA students build an understanding of how everyone works together in real life settings.