Integrating a novel curriculum for teaching pediatric physical exam
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Physician Assistant (PA) students undergo a rigorous educational curriculum consisting of both clinical and didactic instruction to prepare them for their role as a general health care provider. In order to complete training as a general health care provider PA students must learn a wide array of general medical knowledge and clinical skills so that they are able to use their judgment and skills in any area of practice or specialty. More specifically, PAs are expected to identify and effectively treat pediatric disorders that are within the knowledge and skills obtained during their qualified education. In medicine, perhaps the most important diagnostic tool is the ability to properly perform an effective physical examination. Historically, within PA program curricula, methods to optimize performance of a pediatric physical examination have been poorly represented. The pediatric population is unique in that the approach to the patient, as well as the techniques used to gain cooperation from the patient, may change drastically through normal child development. Having a wide array of techniques and skills to comfort and engage the pediatric patient is critical in performing the physical exam. Formal training in this area will better prepare PA students for any setting in which a pediatric patient will be encountered and enable them to deliver effective pediatric care. The objective of this project is to develop a curriculum that will focus on a mastery of skills needed to successfully perform a pediatric physical exam. The proposed curriculum will educate PA students in an understanding of age-appropriate strategies to be used while examining pediatric patients from birth through to mid-childhood (8-years old) that will meet the expectations of current pediatric practices. A literature review provides the basis for the curriculum. The curriculum will be integrated at the end of the PA student’s didactic curriculum, prior to beginning their clinical rotations. Assessment will include a needs assessment for the curriculum, gauging the comfort of students performing the pediatric physical exam, and preparedness of the students for their pediatric clerkship. Student success will be evaluated through a pre and post-test comparison, clinical skills evaluation, as well as a questionnaire surveying student comfort level and knowledge of strategies with the standard curriculum in comparison to student comfort level and knowledge of strategies after specialized training with the newly developed curriculum. It is predicted that the new curriculum will better prepare PA students for their pediatric clerkship and practice.