PAs Do That: Outreach to the Future of the PA Profession

The Seton Hall PA program raised awareness of the PA role during a year-long professional outreach program for high school students. Led by Vanessa Rodriguez, MS, PA-C, and Mirela Bruza-Augatis, MS, PA-C, 19 PA students mentored 25 high schoolers, teaching them about the PA profession, basic clinical skills, and the importance of providing health education to underserved communities.

Participating high school students were from academically or economically disadvantaged backgrounds in urban, underserved communities and had expressed an interest in pursuing health science careers.

During the first of five sessions, the high school students learned about the PA profession and scope of practice. Throughout the program, PA students led small-group, interactive, hands-on workshops that taught the high school students basic skills PAs use in every day clinical practice, including how to measure blood pressure, apply ACE bandages, conduct a standard eye and ear exam, and knot-tying techniques.

Additionally, the high school students selected a poster presentation topic based on diseases they could potentially encounter in their community. During the final session, students presented their posters and received a “Certificate of Completion” to represent their practical knowledge gained. The program and certificate will be a resume-builder for college applications and professional opportunities.

When surveyed, nearly 63% of participating high schoolers reported they were “very interested” or “extremely interested” in aspiring to become a PA; and more than 81% stated they would be interested to work in an underserved community.

Further, the high schoolers expressed enthusiasm for the friendships made and the skills learned: “Meeting my PA mentors was my favorite part. They helped me more than they probably realize in my future plans.”

PA students were also surveyed about their interest in practicing in an underserved community; and nearly 92% reported they were extremely or somewhat likely to work in an underserved community hospital or clinic. Additionally, 75% of PA students reported feeling confident in mentoring younger students who are interested in the healthcare field.

PAs students shared that their favorite parts of the program were the interactive learning sessions and mentoring: “It was so rewarding to see the high school students get excited when they looked in an ear for the first time or wrapped an ankle for the first time.”

Plans to sustain the outreach project are already in place, including accepting applications from those who previously participated for additional skills development as well as applications for a second cohort to replicate the project in the next academic year.

Educating and encouraging students from underserved communities on the role of PAs and other providers can have a big impact, especially if those individuals return to their hometowns or similar communities to help close gaps in access to care. Supporting this notion, Seton Hall’s work was recognized at the New York State Society of Physician Assistants (NYSSPA). Their poster, which presented findings from the project, received top honors at NYSSPA’s 2019 Conference. Remember, change starts with you!

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.

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