Penn College introduces updated Physician Assistant Center
Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
Pennsylvania College of Technology’s physician assistant program hosted an open house on Sept. 15 to showcase recently completed renovations that promise to provide a true-to-life setting for hands-on education.
Throughout the Physician Assistant Center, updates provide equipment and spaces that mirror the scenarios students will encounter in the clinical rotations they complete during their final year of study. New spaces include a Family Medicine Lab, a Women’s Health Lab and an Emergency Medicine Lab.
“These upgrades will enhance learning and allow us to expand our curriculum, as well as increase the level of realism and medical decision-making in our clinical simulations,” said Joshua A. Bower, director of the physician assistant program. “With these upgrades, our students will be able to learn, grow and even make mistakes in the safety of our labs so that they can shine when they set foot in the clinic, from day one of their rotations.”
The center’s updated Assessment Lab is equipped for large-group instruction and provides space for specialty instruction, with an area designated for pediatrics and adolescents, as well as laparoscopic trainers, a surgical table and scrub sink, and simulation manikins of various “ages” that can be programmed to mimic illnesses. Students can practice using handheld ultrasound technology on several manikins.
The lobby resembles a waiting room and provides a space for students to meet, work or relax between classes.
The Family Medicine Lab is equipped with the same exam table, tools and look of a typical family doctor’s office.
The Women’s Health Lab is equipped with an advanced obstetric patient simulator – a manikin that helps instructors to immerse students in a full range of obstetrical events, from early pregnancy complications and high-risk deliveries to postpartum emergencies and general nursing care. An accompanying “baby” manikin can also be programmed.
The Anatomy Lab, where students learn using cadavers, was enhanced with updated operating room lights and an overhead camera for instructor demonstrations.
The Emergency Medicine Lab, construction of which was supported by the Dr. and Mrs. Arthur William Phillips Charitable Trust, provides three emergency room beds, electrocardiogram machines and other actual or simulated ER equipment.
Bower recalled his first day in an emergency room as a physician assistant student.
“Monitors were beeping, lights were flashing, and a nurse was yelling for me to turn off the monitor, silence the IV pump and move the patient’s bed from one bay to another,” he said. “This was a surreal experience for me because I knew the medicine, but I didn’t know the mechanics of the room.”
He learned quickly and enjoyed a successful rotation in emergency medicine.
“After that experience, I thought of the opportunity students would have if they had more access in lab to the real-world medical equipment they would later use throughout their clinical practice,” he said.
“Now, the students will be even more prepared to enter their clinical year due to the newly renovated space with identical equipment they will use in hospital- and office-based settings,” said Kathryn A. Plankenhorn, who received a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree in physician assistant studies from the college in August and plans to begin work as a certified physician assistant at UPMC Primary Care Pine Street in Williamsport in November. “Even though it is so simple, knowing how to work the beds in the emergency room and being familiar with the laparoscopic tools for the surgical setting will ensure that students will feel comfortable and confident when entering their clinical year.”
“The net effect will be a better student experience, a better preceptor experience, better clinically trained graduates and a better trained PA employee for our clinical affiliates,” Bower said.
Penn College offers a Master of Science in physician assistant studies. According to the American Academy of Physician Associates, the PA profession is one of the fastest growing in the country, and the demand is so high that three quarters of PAs receive multiple job offers upon graduation. To learn more about Penn College’s PA program, call 570-327-4519.
To learn about partnering with Penn College for your workforce needs, contact College Relations at 570-320-8020 or by email.