Task Force Recommendations Incorporated into Duke University's Physician Assistant Curriculum
Duke University Physician Assistant (PA) Program developed a prevention curriculum in 2004 to introduce its students to clinical prevention when they begin their PA studies. The faculty has integrated U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations into the PA curriculum because of their scientific basis.
During the first year of the PA program, students receive an introduction to clinical prevention, which includes an overview of the USPSTF, history, goals, grading system, and use of the Web site. Students also learn about screening issues, risk factor assessment, and patient education. Using examples, students are shown how the USPSTF might arrive at a particular recommendation. Instructors also train students to think about evidence-based medicine versus expert opinion and why the science base is important.
The Duke PA Program has also developed an Internet-based Web lecture that can be used by PA programs across the U.S. This lecture also includes an overview of the USPSTF, focusing on recommendations.
"Because of its increasing importance, the Physician Assistant Division at Duke is strongly committed to prevention," said Valerie J. Schaffer, MHS, PA-C, Clinical Associate and Clinical Coordinator and developer of the prevention curriculum. "Our goal is to insure that prevention gets its proper respect, and that the health care providers we train are familiar with prevention and the Task Force, so they can actually use the recommendations with patients."
The Duke faculty is interested in students' attitudinal change and is considering options to evaluate that change. PAs take a national certification exam that includes prevention and screening items. Therefore, it is possible to use the exam scores as one determinant of improvement in knowledge.
The Duke University Physician Assistant Program enrolls approximately 50 students per year and is located in Durham, NC. It is the birthplace of the Physician Assistant profession.