Using high-fidelity patient simulation to teach physician assistant (PA) students
Introduction: PAs are normally life-science graduates enrolled on a two-year postgraduate programme who eventually function as semi-autonomous clinicians under the direct supervision of designated doctors. The introduction of the European Working Time Directives has reduced junior doctors’ working hours, consequently affecting the provision of services in hospitals. The use of PAs in the UK could help avoid this staffing crisis. Simulation technology is being widely used in the PA curriculum in many US universities, but its use in UK institutions remains limited. Method: Eight students attended a training session in HICESC during which they had the opportunity to participate individually in high-fidelity simulation scenarios focusing on patient assessment and management. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire to evaluate their learning experience from a participant and observer point of view using a Likert scale (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree). Results: All candidates agreed that the course improved their knowledge (mean=4.43,SD=0.73) and would help them practise more safely (mean=4.75,SD=0.43). They learnt from participating in their own scenarios (mean=4.75,SD=0.43) as well as observing their peers perform (mean=4.50,SD=0.50). They all felt such sessions should be part of the PA training programme (mean=4.86,SD=0.35) because it is a useful addition to learning from real patients (mean=4.43,SD=0.73). Conclusion: The delivery of successful healthcare in the acute setting requires a competent multidisciplinary team with core clinical or medical knowledge underpinned by good communication skills. High-fidelity patient simulation is particularly useful for PA students with a non-healthcare background to acquire such skills and knowledge in a safe controlled environment.