Award Winning Advantages for Future Physician Assistants

October 08, 2019

Award Winning Advantages for Future Physician Assistants

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If you’re a Physician Assistant, you know the feeling of walking into work hoping that you have what it takes each day. Maybe you even stop to take a deep breath, taking that step across the threshold with your fingers crossed behind your back. Being a great PA is no easy feat, but it your very fortunate, you are a graduate of Grand Valley State University’s Physician Assistant Studies Program at the Traverse City Regional Center, and you have a few extra tricks up your sleeve.

After only two graduating classes, this small program in Traverse City was awarded the mantle of Most Outstanding Credit Program by the Association for Leaders in Professional, Continuing, and Online Learning (UPCEA) and the reasons why are plain. The invested faculty and forward thinking curriculum create a culture devoted to readiness, building as large an experience base as possible for twelve students at a time.

Every new graduate of a healthcare professions program should expect to learn on the job, but being as prepared as humanly possible is everything to someone with another person’s health and well being on their shoulders. GVSU faculty including Nicholus Kopacki, Physician Assistant Site Director and Affiliate Professor, advocate for a program that goes well above and beyond the norm, integrating experiences into the curriculum that normally students would have to learn in their first hectic weeks of employment.

“There are four stepping stones,” explains Kopacki, detailing the arduous evolution from undergraduate to full fledged Physician Assistant. “The biggest when they start actually seeing patients.”

With the help of both internal and external (RUS/HRSA) grants, Kopacki’s students have the distinct advantage of exposure to curriculum with Telemedicine and Ultrasound training with specialized instructors. Additionally a course titled Hospital Community Experience puts students into the community to rotate in settings ranging from pharmacy to aquatherapy, and learn what it means to be part of an interdisciplinary team. “We know it’s vital for PA’s to understand what other health professions do as part of an interdisciplinary team,” says Kopacki.

“Of course they could learn this on the job, but it’s amazing what a few hours can do to gain knowledge and confidence working with other health care professionals in our community.” Kopacki describes his own experience entering the field as a provider, and how strongly he and the other faculty identify with the heavy weight of responsibility their students have chosen to carry. “I used to wake up in the middle of the night,” he says, recalling double checking care notes in a cold sweat more than once.

In addition to having a leg up in skills experience and the hospital environment, students have the benefit of small class size. This much touted advantage may sound to some like a line from a brochure, however in a program that demands students to consistently achieve scores of eighty percent or higher, the extra moments and personal connections make a big difference. The anecdotal experience and emotional support of professors makes a lasting impact in a demanding profession.

“I got a text from a recent graduate who had just received an outstanding evaluation from their supervisor. She was extremely thankful for the education and relationships built during the program”, Kopacki shares, always glad to hear success stories. He says that having only twelve students and carefully selected faculty “leads to lifelong mentorships.”

Faculty representatives, including Kopacki, will travel in October to accept their well deserved award from the UPCEA, and continue to provide exemplary training to future healthcare providers in our community.

For more information about the Physician Assistant Studies Program contact Shannon Owen, Director of Northern Michigan Programs for Grand Valley State University at 231.995.1785 and at .

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Page last modified October 8, 2019