Physician assistant (PA) faculty and students around the country are responding with creativity and resilience to the disruptions to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the vast majority of clinical rotations suspended either at educational institutions or clinical sites, students are completing online modules and virtual cases to acquire the clinical learning competencies they need to graduate and join the thousands of PAs, in every specialty and setting, including on the front lines of the pandemic.
All hands on deck
Many faculty are also themselves on the clinical front lines, with more than 85 percent practicing in some capacity — even as they are also working tirelessly to adapt PA education to a new normal that will likely change many aspects of education permanently. Students are also participating in clinical studies of virus transmission and working with local health departments to help staff information lines, experiences that form the basis of new public health electives.
Turning in the tides
The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the national organization representing the 254 accredited PA programs in the country, has pivoted its services to help member programs tackle the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. A major role is bringing the PA educator community together to share ideas and resources – more than 600 faculty attended two online discussion forums on how programs and students are adapting.
PAEA has also developed a webinar series, curated dozens of resources to help faculty move education online, and successfully advocated for inclusion of PA programs in federal funding packages. Perhaps the association’s most important role is simply to provide the support of a united community at a time when wellness and resilience are more important than ever. As the president and CEO said in a recent email to all programs, “We’re with you every step of the way.”