Addressing physician assistant student stigma toward people with substance use disorders
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BACKGROUND: Substance use disorders are highly prevalent and highly stigmatized. They are defined as conditions in which the use of one or more substances, in spite of negative consequences, leads to a clinically significant impairment or distress. Stigma is a characteristic deemed undesirable by society. Stigma is dependent on the relationship between the specific discrediting or undesirable characteristic and the social context. LITERATURE REVIEW FINDINGS: The various manifestations of stigma include public or external stigma, provider stigma, and internal stigma. External stigma is the negative beliefs that society holds about people in stigmatized groups, for example patients with substance use disorders or HIV. Another type of stigma is provider stigma, referring to the negative beliefs that providers hold about patients belonging to these stigmatized groups. Internal stigma is defined as the devaluation that people in stigmatized groups hold about themselves in relation to society. Stigma is continued when there is a lack of familiarity and education with a stigmatized condition or group. PROPOSED PROJECT: The proposed project aims to address and decrease provider stigma in physician assistant trainees before they begin their clinical training through an educational intervention. This thesis will propose the development and evaluation of a new curriculum to educate physician assistant students on substance use disorders and their treatments, frame substance use disorders as chronic diseases, and aid physician assistant student trainees on recognizing their attitudes and biases, or prejudices, toward working with patients with substance use disorders. The project will assess attitudes before and after the education intervention to analyze if attitudes toward patients with substance use disorders have changed as a result of the educational intervention. The goal of the educational curriculum is to improve physician assistant student attitudes toward working with patients with substance use disorders before they encounter this population in clinical practice. SIGNIFICANCE: Physician assistants are clinicians who diagnose illness, develop treatment plans, manage their own patients, and often serve as the primary clinician for patients. Physician assistants will encounter a number of patients with substance use disorders throughout the course of their careers. Addressing provider stigma in this group will help improve treatment outcomes in this patient population and give the students the confidence and knowledge to manage patients with substance use disorders. As a result of completing this curriculum, physician assistant students will have decreased stigma and better attitudes toward working with patients with substance use disorders.