Enhancing PA Education: Integrating Aquifer Cases for Palliative and Geriatric Care
February 28, 2024
February 28, 2024

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By: Laurel Miller, PA-C | Assistant Professor – Director of Service | Point Loma Nazarene University PA Program

At Point Loma Nazarene University, we take pride in being the first PA program in San Diego. Our inaugural cohort began their journey in August 2021 and graduated in December 2023.

As we welcomed our third class in August 2023, we worked diligently to secure our second accreditation application and site visit.

In this pursuit of this, we encountered a challenge: effectively integrating palliative care and geriatrics medicine into our curriculum.

The Integration Challenge: Palliative Care and Geriatrics

To address the integration challenge, we turned to the Aquifer platform for our first cohort. As we got familiar with Aquifer, we realized we had underutilized the platform’s potential. As our second cohort began, we took a more thorough approach, integrating all 13 Palliative Care cases and all 28 geriatric cases across our didactic curriculum. 

We initiated the process with a formal lecture on palliative care, grief, family counseling, and other related topics. We then revisited it in each of our 15 organ system modules as students encountered various conditions and medical topics.

Integration Process

Aquifer proved to be an invaluable tool in seamlessly integrating geriatrics and palliative cases throughout the curriculum, complementing class lectures and fostering interactive discussions.

To address the need for continuous learning in palliative and geriatric care, we brought in a palliative care physician to deliver a one-hour lecture during each organ system course, focusing on a palliative care topic relevant to the specific system being studied. Additionally, we assigned geriatric cases to students within the related organ system modules.

Outcomes and Impact

Our approach yielded several noteworthy outcomes. First, we found many of the Aquifer cases we assigned could also serve as effective assessment tools, aligning perfectly with the required ARC-PA standards for accreditation. As a result, our program is now better prepared for the accreditation process.

Furthermore, our students and faculty provided positive feedback on this integrated learning method. By reinforcing palliative and geriatric topics consistently throughout the didactic year, our students felt more confident discussing geriatric care within various medical contexts. The integrative approach allowed them to develop a deeper understanding of these essential aspects of health care.

Future Directions: Building on Success

Having achieved success with our integrated approach to palliative and geriatric care, our aim is to further capitalize on the potential of the Aquifer platform. As we continue to refine our program, we plan to expand its use to cover additional social topics, broadening the scope of learning experiences for our students.

Looking ahead, we will tweak the palliative care topics to ensure optimal alignment with our palliative care physician’s lectures for each organ system module. This will further enhance the coherence and depth of our students’ learning experiences.

Sharing Knowledge and Inspiring Others

We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. As we refine our approach, we hope to create learning materials and resources that we can share with other educators. Our ultimate goal is to inspire and support others in elevating the quality of PA and broader health professions education through innovative strategies and the use of technologies like Aquifer.

In conclusion, our experience in integrating Aquifer cases for palliative and geriatric care has been transformative for our PA program. It has allowed us to not only bridge the gap in these critical areas but also foster a dynamic and engaging learning environment. As we continue to evolve and improve our approach, we remain committed to empowering our students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their careers as compassionate and competent healthcare professionals.

Key Takeaways

  • Aquifer Palliative Care and Geriatrics cases were easily integrated across the didactic curriculum to provide coverage of key topics and supplement lectures

  • Palliative Care and Geriatrics cases made students feel more confident discussing geriatric care within various medical contexts

  • Cases foster a dynamic and engaging learning environment

Curriculum Planning

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