Echocardiography curriculum development for physician assistants using entrustable professional activities
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BACKGROUND: With the projected increase of cardiovascular disease in the aging population, a higher demand for echocardiography use is predicted. However, there is a shortage in the supply of cardiologists, to the point that a 2009 American College of Cardiology survey report called it a "cardiology workforce crisis". The report also recommends a more aggressive use of PAs and NPs as one of the solutions to fill the shortage. Currently, echocardiography is not routinely included in the scope of practice for PAs in cardiology. While PAs attain strong basic science knowledge and clinical training experience in PA school, they typically do not receive additional formal postgraduate training. PAs have limited training opportunities to train in echocardiography and receive certification of recognition, but a formally standardized training program and certifying examination geared specifically for PAs are yet to be developed. This study seeks to develop a pilot curriculum in training echocardiography which can be standardized for utilization across various regions and medical subspecialties. The curriculum draws on the concept of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA), which is being actively used in graduate medical education. HYPOTHESIS: After participating in the proposed pilot curriculum which involves online didactic learning and supervised hands-on clinical training, trained PAs will be able to reach proficiency in echocardiography operation and interpretation at level 4 supervision according to the EPA guidelines. METHODS: This study proposes a pilot curriculum with framework based on the EPA titled “performing and interpreting echocardiography” by PAs. The curriculum involves didactic and clinical training in echocardiography, with the goal to achieve mastery of level 4 supervision (minimal supervision). 2 subjects will be recruited from a teaching medical institution in the Greater Boston area with an IAC accredited echocardiography laboratory. After the 12-month training, participants will take ASCeXAM/ReASCE Online Practice Exam Simulation offered by the ASE. Upon 1) achievement of individualized EPAs as assessed by supervisor, and 2) simulation exam score of >80%, participants will earn a STAR in echocardiography. CONCLUSION: The study is the first step to establishing an effective training curriculum that will eventually be a basis for creating a certifying exam in echocardiography, designed specifically for PAs. As this study merely suggests a new curriculum, future studies should focus on identifying strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum after implementation and expansion to multiple sites, and gather data to use for continual improvement of the training curriculum.