Dr. Greg Mappin, medical director and associate professor in the Physician Assistant Studies program, used online video technology from his desk this semester to demonstrate an abdominal exam on a torso mannequin.
“Normally, we would demonstrate physical exam techniques in our clinical classroom using fellow faculty or students,” Mappin said. “Then the students often practice with dyads on each other to feel comfortable with specific techniques.”
Although the online physical examination was different from one that Mappin would have performed in the classroom, it provided a very effective way to demonstrate physical examination skills.
Hands-on learning during a time of social distancing
The clinical exam is important for PA students: They practice talking with a patient while conducting a physical examination. They learn to “master a comprehensive set of logical steps that cover each anatomical region so that nothing is inadvertently skipped or left out of a comprehensive clinical evaluation,” according to Mappin.
Naturally, the abdominal exam is designed to be very hands-on.
“Remote teaching has provided some interesting modifications for the ‘hands-on’ sessions we have related to clinical exam skills,” Mappin said.
Still, Mappin and other PA professors have kept students on track using the best of online education techniques to actively engage students. For example, Mappin’s students practiced video sessions with one another while he observed technique and provided critical assessment and guidance.
A “seamless” transition
“Our students and my fellow faculty have impressed me with their ability to transition from classroom teaching to remote teaching,” Mappin said. “They’ve done so seamlessly and without any interruption in our didactic schedule.”
In March, PA students went on spring break after attending classes on campus. They transitioned to the virtual classroom when they returned to the program one week later.
“Dr. Weber (the PA Studies Program Director) was proactive in setting up contingency plans to continue our teaching, and we were well prepared to go from the on-campus classroom to remote sessions,” Mappin said.
Keeping students engaged
Mappin says the PA students adjusted very quickly to the technology and asked questions during the remote sessions like they would on campus. Making sure students ask questions is one of the main ways Mappin continues to actively engage students.
“Engaging students is very much like engaging them in the physical classroom,” Mappin said. “We have a great group of bright students, and they are digesting an enormous amount of material this year.
“In order to keep them focused and break up the routine, much like in the classroom, I will call upon them to answer questions or turn over the screen to them to write a prescription for the medications we are learning.”
Learn more about the PC PA Studies Program
PA students recently finished their third of four didactic blocks and took finals. They’ll continue their online studies during the summer. Please visit Physician Assistant Studies to learn more about the program.