Instructional Methods in the PA Program

Many types of instructional methods are utilized in the JMU PA Program, including case studies, traditional lectures, team-based learning, flipped classroom, skills workshops, journal clubs, inter-professional activities, and laboratories.  Students also gain hands on clinical experience in their first year (didactic phase).  Below you will find more details on these various methods.

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Case Studies

A case study is a process in which detailed consideration is given to a particular patient or scenario over a period of time.  In our curriculum, case studies can take various forms:

  • Partnered case study:  students work in partners - one serves as the mock patient and the other as the clinician.  Together they work through a case vignette (PA 510 Physical Diagnosis I, and PA 511 Physical Diagnosis II).
  • In-class case study:  the course instructor leads the entire class through a patient case scenario as an adjunct to a traditional lecture (PA 532 Pharmacology I, PA 632 Pharmacology II, PA 643 Values and Ethics in Medicine).
  • Group case study:  a group of 4-6 students read through a case vignette and work collaboratively over 2-3 days to work-up a described patient scenario.  The group then meets with an individual PA faculty member to discuss their approach and work through the diagnostic process and subsequent treatment (PA 520 Clinical Medicine I, and PA 621 Clinical Medicine II).
  • Virtual case study:  individual student is assigned a virtual patient case within a licensed software program to work-up and present to the class (PA 652 Clinical Problem Solving).

Lecture

Some material lends itself best to the traditional lecture format.  Instructors keep class time engaging with active questioning and in-class case studies as mentioned above.

  • Guest lecturers from the surrounding community are frequently brought in to share their expert knowledge on a particular subject (examples: Dermatology, Neurology, General Surgery, Urology, Psychiatry).

Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students engage with lectures and other materials outside of class to prepare them for an active learning experience in the classroom. During class, students work together in groups to make decisions and problem solve with emphasis on higher ordered thinking and application to challenging realistic situations. (PA 511 Physical Diagnosis II).

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning (TBL) is an evidence-based collaborative learning strategy that incorporates flipped classroom concepts in a structured framework.  In TBL, the emphasis is on both individual learning and development of teamwork skills that are important to successfully managing complex clinical problems. (PA 630 Diagnostic Methods I).

Laboratories

  • Anatomy Wet Lab:  cadavers from the Biosciences department are housed in the wet lab.  There are twelve dissection tables each with an associated computer monitor where dissection outlines, atlas images, or additional anatomical resources can be displayed to aid in dissection.  There are overhead cameras so that cadaver findings at one table can be “broadcast” to the other table monitors as needed.  There is also a dry table seating area with numerous anatomical models available for learning, as well as pro-sected, plastinated body sections (BIO 513 Human Gross Anatomy with Clinical Applications).
  • Physical Exam & History Taking:  mostly utilized for PA 510 Physical Diagnosis I, and PA 511 Physical Diagnosis II.  Students work in partners to practice medical history taking and various physical exam maneuvers (heart auscultation, percussion of the abdomen, knee palpation, etc.).  Sometimes skills are practiced on each other and other times assorted lo-fidelity simulation equipment (task trainers) are utilized (for example, ear and eye exam simulators, or rectal simulators).
  • Urological & Gynecological Teaching Associates:  professionally trained clinicians are brought to campus for a 1-2 day workshop.  PA students are instructed on proper technique for rectal, vaginal, and male genitalia exams while also getting to practice the exams on the trainers.

Skills Workshops

Hands-on workshops designed to introduce clinical procedures to students.  Below is a list of skills workshops that are typically included in the curriculum.  View more information and photos.

  • Basic & advanced suturing
  • Surgical hand tying
  • Incision & drainage
  • Chest tube placement
  • Venipuncture (starting an IV) & injections
  • Airway management & intubation (including video laryngoscopy)
  • Central line placement
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Performing an EKG
  • Extremity splinting
  • Aseptic technique
  • Bedside ultrasound (including FAST exam & needle guidance)
  • Basic Life Support (AHA certification)
  • Advanced Life Support (AHA certification)

Inter-Professional Education (IPE)

IPE occurs when students from two or more healthcare-related professions learn from, about, and with each other in order to facilitate effective collaboration in the future.  PA students have four IPE experiences in the program:

  • PA 659 Healthcare Environment:  this course is taken along with students in the Occupational Therapy program during the first summer session.
  • Annual IPE Event:  this occurs each spring semester (in March).  PA students interact with students from Dietetics, Nursing, Speech Language Pathology, Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy, and Health Services Administration in order to better understand how to care for a patient within a multidisciplinary healthcare team.
  • Poverty Simulation:  PA students participate in this experience in their first semester as part of PA 540 The PA Profession course.  It is hosted on campus by the Institute for Innovation in Health & Human Services.  PA students participate alongside other students from healthcare related fields.
  • Building Cultural Humility:  PA students participate in this experience in their first semester as part of PA 540 The PA Profession course.  It is hosted on campus by the Institute for Innovation in Health & Human Services.  PA students participate alongside other students from healthcare related fields.

Journal Club

This is part of the PA 551 Medical Biostatistics course.  After spending time during the semester learning how to read and critically analyze medical literature, students are given a clinical vignette and asked to find a relevant primary research article.  They must decide whether the test or treatment should be applied to their particular patient and then present this completed document to the class as a journal club presentation.

Hands-On Patient Care

Through the Student Engaged Medical Clinic, first year PA students work with licensed healthcare providers obtaining patient histories, performing physicals exams, formulating differential diagnoses, performing common bedside procedures, and determining appropriate management plans. See Student Engaged Medical Clinic. (PA 520 Clinical Medicine I, PA 621 Clinical Medicine II and PA 626 Clinical Medicine III).