Alexis Moore, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, and Dr. Judy Esposito, associate professor of human service studies, presented research on the importance of teaching empathy and critical thinking skills to physician assistant (PA) students. Abstract co-authored with Dr. Cynthia Fair, professor of public health studies and human service studies.
Through the use of clinical vignettes and role-play, Alexis Moore, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, and Dr. Judy Esposito, associate professor of human service studies, presented an interdisciplinary approach to teaching empathy to physician assistant educators.
Empathy is acknowledged as a necessity in medicine to provide the best patient care. Patients who receive care by a clinician who practices empathy report greater patient satisfaction, better health outcomes, and are more likely to follow the advice of their caregiver. However, empathy is hard to teach, especially in clinical training settings. This workshop provided insight and instruction for educators to train PA students in empathetic communication before they enter clinical settings.
Dr. Cynthia Fair, professor of public health studies and human service studies, who co-authored a research abstract with Moore and Esposito, felt grateful to share this message with educators. “We started this interdisciplinary work several years ago and it’s wonderful to see it reach a wider audience in a world where understanding another’s perspective seems increasingly important,” she said.
In addition to empathy, proper methods of taking patient history and conducting a physical exam are important skills to learn in PA school. Moore provided PA educators with skills to allow students to not only learn about the technical side of these elements of care, but also to think critically about the information they learn from their patients. Typically, PA students learn about these practices later in their education, however Moore’s presentation encouraged educators to have students engage in critical thinking, reasoning and understanding about their patients’ histories and exams as soon as they enter PA programs.
Moore noted that she has seen a hidden gem revealed in the way that COVID-19 has disrupted education. As students have had to adjust to less in-person time with an educator in the classroom, they have found ways to refresh, reinforce or learn new concepts – specifically through short high-yield videos, commonly done in YouTube formats. Moore has embraced creating videos, to bolster her teaching and learning, and having her students do the same, especially when it comes to patient history and physical exams. These elements of care “lend [themselves] well to this format as students rely on visual demonstration of narratives and techniques when first learning to assess body systems,” she shared.
All three professors were excited about the opportunity to help shape the education of future physician assistants through their involvement in this PAEA Forum.