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PA and DMS Students Participate in Inaugural FAST Exam Patient Simulation Activity

Interprofessional Education in Action: PA and DMS Students Participate in Inaugural FAST Exam Patient Simulation Activity

  • When it comes to providing the best possible patient care, collaboration is key. That’s just one of the reasons faculty in the School of Medical Imaging and Therapeutics and the School of Physician Assistant Studies combined forces to offer a brand-new interprofessional education (IPE) experience for students.

    The IPE experience, titled “FAST Exam Patient Simulation Activity,” was held on the Worcester campus and brought together 25 diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) and physician assistant studies (PAS) students to share best practices and learn from one another.

    Kristy Altongy-Magee, Program Director PAS Manchester/Worcester, in the School of Physician Assistant Studies; Cheryl Babin, Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences; and Jennifer Miller, Program Director and Assistant Professor in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography–General program, spearheaded the collaborative event, which involved a patient simulation activity.

    “Teamwork and communication in patient care were the focus of the simulation activity,” said Professor Miller. “Students worked in groups of four to evaluate patients in three simulated urgent patient care scenarios. Each group consisted of one PAS student and three DMS students, and the DMS students rotated through the roles of sonographer, patient, and observer in each scenario.”

    The cases presented to the students all focused on urgent care, as if they were caring for a patient arriving at the emergency room or urgent care center with an acute presentation. Together, the students experienced acute cholecystitis, deep venous thrombosis, and congestive heart failure cases.

    In each of these cases, the PAS student obtained a history and conducted a physical examination of the patient. All the cases required the PA to order a diagnostic ultrasound or cardiac echo to obtain a definitive diagnosis.

    That is when students from the PAS and DMS programs truly came together in collaboration. The PAS students simulated calling the ultrasound tech to discuss the patient findings and the rationale for ordering the ultrasound. The ultrasound tech would then conduct a bedside ultrasound examination on the patient and walk the other simulation participants through the navigation of the machine, location of anatomy, and viewing normal and abnormal findings.

    “Providing the best care we can for our patients”

    Taylor Rondeau DMS-Echo ’18 participated in the experience and found the opportunity to connect with other future healthcare professionals very meaningful.

    “I thought it was really cool being involved in the patient simulation,” said Rondeau. “It gave me a chance to work with other healthcare professionals as well as real-life clients, which is not something you get to do every day while learning in class.

    “At the end of each case, the students had the opportunity to ask questions and educate each other on why a specific question may have been asked in obtaining the history or why a particular physical exam was conducted or why a specific type of ultrasound probe was used on the patient,” said Professor Altongy-Magee. “It also allowed students from each discipline to see the scope of their role and responsibility in caring for a patient.”

    The experience proved extremely valuable for the students, and 100 percent of the participants said they felt that it enabled them to better appreciate the importance of teamwork in patient care.

    “I learned a lot from my PA peers, but one thing that really stood out to me was how much information they had to retain,” said Rondeau. “They were very knowledgeable, and they didn’t have to think twice about what they were doing. This showed me how much time and effort they put into their education and that they were dedicated to their career.”

    Rondeau also appreciated the opportunity to share her passion for sonography with PAS students. “I was able to better explain to the PAS students what a sonographer does and why our job is so important,” she said. “We work with patients from all walks of life, as do PAs, and most of the time our paths cross at some point and it’s important to understand one another. If we are able to do this, then we are truly providing the best care we can for our patients.”

    “The ideal place to enable interprofessional collaboration”

    Professor Altongy-Magee and Professor Miller point to the importance of IPE as a way to prepare engaged and passionate healthcare professionals for their future careers.

    “IPE is so important because it prepares our students for clinical practice in which PAs play a vital role in team-based care,” said Professor Altongy-Magee. “Our students learn to be team oriented and collaborate with other healthcare professional in order to provide comprehensive and efficient patient care using a holistic approach.”

    Professor Miller points out that MCPHS, which offers 100-plus healthcare programs, is committed to creating interprofessional experiences. “MCPHS is the ideal place to enable interprofessional collaboration,” said Professor Miller. “We are unique because all programs are involved with healthcare.”

    Rondeau agrees. “I believe that interprofessional educational experiences are important because they really bring us back to the key aspects of healthcare,” she said. “These types of simulations have us working face-to-face with other professionals as well as with patients, which is a great skill to have.”

    Professor Altongy-Magee has her eye on the big picture when it comes to IPE. “IPE is so critical for all health science students because it will help our next generation of clinicians to better achieve the triple aim in delivering care to patients, which is improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare,” she said.

    For students like Rondeau, IPE is a critical learning experience. “These types of activities are great real-life encounters because we get to work with other professionals and learn a little about what they do,” said Rondeau. “It’s not just learning from a textbook; it’s real-life knowledge that we all get to share with each other.”

    What’s next?

    Faculty members are already looking to the future to identify new ways to incorporate interprofessional collaboration into their instruction and continue to prepare students to be practice ready.

    On the Boston campus, DMS students recently helped PAS students learn how to use ultrasound machines, and Professor Miller plans to continue to develop IPE programing with PAS students on the Boston campus. And, Professor Miller reports, faculty in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program reached out to her about hosting a similar activity for their students in the fall. “My goal is to incorporate these IPE activities into the lab syllabus so they will be sustainable and repeatable in the future,” she said.

    Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) offers 100-plus degree programs that empower the next generation of healthcare professionals and provides interprofessional educational experiences designed to give students the hands-on experience they need to thrive in their future careers.