Physician assistant students resume clinical rotations amid ongoing pandemic
Riverside, Calif. (June 23, 2020) – Justin Kent, a physician assistant studies graduate student at California Baptist University, has a renewed sense of calling for a career in the medical field. Kent contracted COVID-19 when he returned to his home in Las Vegas after CBU switched to remote learning to complete the spring semester.
Kent said his case was a mild one. However, his experience motivated him more to serve others. When he and the other physician assistant students returned to complete their clinical rotations on May 18 after a nine-week hiatus, he was able to share his experience with his peers and patients.
“With so much trepidation striking society, my first-hand perspective of going back into clinical rotations has helped me better relate to patients with such fears,” Kent said. “I am able to relate with them and tone down unnecessary worry. Most people don't know a COVID-19 survivor, so meeting me is their first real encounter with a positive side of overcoming this virus.
“My passion for medicine has certainly increased during this period and frankly, I love that this is the season and time God has called me into medicine,” Kent said.
Physician assistant studies students who are in their second year of the two-year program are required to conduct nine clinical rotations. Before returning to rotations in May, students had the option of withdrawing from the program and returning at a later date. However, all 28 second-year students decided to return.
By working and learning on the job, the students will learn skills they would not have had otherwise, said Dr. Heather Ontiveros, director of clinical education for physician assistant studies.
“We shouldn’t be running for the hills in situations like this. We should be learning how to best equip our students so that they can handle it and learn from this in a safe way,” Ontiveros said.
CBU students were given personal protective equipment (PPE) packet with the necessary items depending on what clinical site they were assigned, Ontiveros said. Students were also instructed not to see known COVID-19 patients due to the health risk, she added.
Ontiveros said the clinical team worked hard to get students back in rotations.
“We did it in a safe way,” Ontiveros said. “This is what we prepared them for. Though this is a new pandemic, infectious disease is not new.”
Alexa Hasen, a physician assistant studies student, said wearing the PPE has been an adjustment.
“The COVID pandemic has definitely changed the world of medicine as we know it. This experience has taught me about resilience,” Hasen said. “In my future career, I will remember to be grateful for the little things. And as always, I will remember why I got into medicine in the first place: to provide excellent care to the people who need us most.”
Samantha Baltazar, a physician assistant studies student, said the ER looked different when she returned in May, with areas for isolating COVID-19 patients. The pandemic brought continual changes to their clinicals, she added.
“It has required an immense amount of flexibility, perseverance, and faith,” Baltazar said. “This pandemic has instilled emotional resiliency that will be important to take with me into my future career.”