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Saint Francis University Physician Assistant students return to campus

May 22, 2020 Tags: Academics , Health Sciences and Education , Stories of Resilience , University News

With world events continuing to demonstrate the need to maintain a robust healthcare workforce, Saint Francis University is pleased to announce that it can resume some aspects of physician assistant education for its upperclass students. Saint Francis University's five-year accelerated Physician Assistant program is an established leader in the field of physician assistant education. The program was among the first in Pennsylvania to be created in 1976 to combat a shortage of primary care physicians. Today, Saint Francis ranks as 11th in the nation by the Rural Health Research & Policy Centers for graduating the highest number of physician assistants serving rural communities.

PA students in sim lab

Pre-COVID 19: PA students in a sim lab experience in the newly opened Experiential Learning Center on campus. 

Following approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Saint Francis University will open academic classrooms beginning June 1 to 55 didactic year Physician Assistant students to complete a condensed semester using in-person instruction and labs. University officials were granted permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for any program leading to licensure of healthcare providers under the medical or osteopathic licensure boards or similar entities in other jurisdictions to resume in-person coursework. Saint Francis University Physician Assistant and Nursing programs qualify under the state's list of approved programs.

The Physician Assistant didactic 10-week semester is a rigorous, fast-paced semester in which students will cover a wide range of topics. The coursework will include instruction on how to research and interpret medical studies as well as how to treat a patient with diabetes or diagnose a patient who has had a stroke. Classes will be held in three separate classrooms so as not to exceed social distancing guidelines outlined by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Lectures will occur in one room and will be live-streamed to two additional classrooms. Students will rotate equally among the live lectures. In each classroom, students will be spaced out at least six feet apart and all faculty, students and university staff will be mandated to wear masks. Students returning to in-person coursework are able to choose to secure private off-campus housing or move into campus housing with each student living in a single-person room. Meal plans are also available to students using a to-go order process from the university's dining hall.

Saint Francis University Physician Assistant Program Chair, Dr. Carrie Beebout, says, "I was happy to see that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has allowed physician assistant programs to resume face-to-face instruction. I think this is an important validation of the role that both nurses and physician assistants have played on the front lines in this pandemic and recognizes the importance of continuing to educate our future healthcare warriors."

Saint Francis University officials have been meeting on an on-going basis since making the decision to move to virtual instruction in March. The administration continues to manage policies and procedures relative to returning to in-person instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrival of students in June requires facilities to be cleaned every morning prior to class beginning and several times throughout the day with special attention paid to hard surfaces in common areas. All university employees will be required to complete daily health and safety checks upon arrival on campus, including wellness and temperature monitoring.

The university's highly regarded nursing program will resume in-person instruction on campus June 30.

The University is developing additional guidelines in accordance with the CDC and public health officials to prepare for the return of more students to the campus in Loretto this fall.

Saint Francis University (www.francis.edu) in Loretto, PA is the oldest Catholic-Franciscan college in the United States. Its mission is to help students grow into compassionate, successful professionals through a culture of generosity, respect, discovery and joy.

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