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Abstract

Purpose: This study was designed to demonstrate the importance of a formal professionalism curriculum in physician assistant (PA) education. The PA concept arose from the medical profession, and PA education was designed to follow the medical model of education. Courses have been mandated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to include professionalism. Just as in the curriculum in medical schools, PA educators have been allowed to create their own professionalism curricula. The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) have mandated that professionalism and ethics must be included in PA education. To address this need, a professionalism curriculum for first year PA students was created that combined standards of professionalism that are taught in medical school with those from the PA profession. Method: Sixty-four students enrolled in their first year of a master’s degree PA program were asked to voluntarily participate in a two-part survey to assess their knowledge of professionalism. The initial survey was administered prior to any formal education in professionalism. The same survey was repeated following the completion of the professionalism curriculum. The design of the survey was cross sectional and consisted of close ended questions. A Likert scale was utilized for responses, allowing for statistical analysis and comparison. Results: Sixty-three of 64 students completed both surveys. Results did not demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in knowledge of professionalism. Student evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, as was their participation in group discussions. Conclusions: Professionalism did not significantly improve. The lack of statistical significance may have referred to the lack of reliability in the findings but did not indicate the curriculum was effective or ineffective. It may have been wiser to continue professionalism education throughout the didactic year, incorporating case studies and simulation exercises.

Author Bio(s)

Susan Ryan, Ed.D., PA-C is the Clinical Coordinator in the Physician Assistant Program at Adventist University in Orlando, FL..

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