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The Physician Associates Program And The Role Of The ACE

Bob Spour working with Clinical Lead Pete Gorman at The University of Wolverhampton
Working alongside Clinical Lead Pete Gorman at The University of Wolverhampton

Congratulations are in order to all of those Physician Associates who were successful in passing their recent National Exams.

The Physician Associates Program is a very intensive 2 year Post-Graduate course and requires great dedication, focus, resilience and determination to complete. It takes many hours of reading, studying and practicing hands on skills training to produce a competent and safe PA.

Image of the University of Wolverhampton from the PA Skills suite
The University of Wolverhampton from the PA Skills suite

Working in close partnership with The University of Chester and The University of Wolverhampton has shown me how demanding the course can be. I see it as my duty as an ACE to ensure that the PA student gets the support and the skills they need to progress in the profession

As an ACE it is also important to keep up to date with any changes that might be happening in the curriculum. Whilst this sometimes is a challenge, I am always grateful to the tutors for their continued support.

Just as the students work and study hard, I am conscious that Meducate Academy’s ACEs put in the same effort. We will therefore continue to work closely with Chester University and Wolverhampton University to produce high quality training programmes for both communication skills and systems examinations this year.

We are about to start producing video and online resources materials for our ACE training programme over the summer months. In less than a month our ACE Aide Memoire will be available to all of our staff here at Meducate Academy.

It's always fun working with ACEs at The University of Chester
Bob & Mark enjoy working at The University of Chester

Academy continue to invest in our ACEs and we are still working on gaining some type of accreditation for the role. Although we are seen as lay educators our ability to provide high fidelity simulations and clinical skills is well documented by the institutions we work with. It is about time this was rewarded with some type of recognised qualification. It also means that our partners know that they are getting the highest quality ACEs working alongside their clinical staff.

We have always been passionate about continued professional ACE training and we want the quality of that work to be second to none.

We will be rolling out a regular annual training camp for the ACEs. This means we have control over the quality of the people we provide to our customers. This of course will be dependent on social distancing rules being relaxed in the coming months.

If you want to work as an ACE and be part of the team at Meducate Academy enter your details in the landing page here and we will get in touch.

Incidentally we will also be hosting an Annual Conference in July 2021. The panel will consist of five speakers all senior clinicians in their own right who have an impressive track record on the UK PA programme. The topic will be the role of simulation in medical training, specifically focusing on the role of the associate clinical educator.

 

In Conversation With Senior Associate Clinical Educator Mark Reynolds

Interview with Associate Clinical Educator Mark Reynolds
Associate Clinical Educator Mark Reynolds giving feedback to a PA student on a recent course

A few subscribers have asked me to expand further on the role of the ACE, and this is a transcript of an interview I did with fellow ACE Mark Reynolds a few years ago. It still has relevance today and should answer any questions I have received over the past few months.

Meducate: What can you tell me about the difference between a Role Player and an ACE (Associate Clinical Educator)?

Mark: A role player is involved in clinical communication, in that they play opposite a medical student as a patient or colleague in order to to improve their learning in terms of their technique of clinical communication.  The associate clinical educator is also trained as a role player but is also trained in the body system examination so they are a hand on resource for the student to work on. The ACE then feeds back how well the student carries out that examination.

Meducate: You mentioned the term “body systems” what do you mean by that?

Mark: The basic body systems, from the point of view of the  medical world, would be  the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological and musculoskeletal systems. We are trained to give feedback on their examination technique. Techniques such as percussion, auscultation and palpation.  We  never teach pathology, that’s up to an academic tutor who normally works alongside us.

Meducate: So the academic tutor teaches the pathologies and the theory, and you are the resource? A bit like a living mannequin?

Mark: Yes, we are a living resource able to give feedback on the technique as well as our extensive knowledge of the OSCEs and what is required in those academic exams. At first Techniques like Percussion and Palpation are often a problem for new students, and we can guide them in the correct technique as well as ensuring they’re in the correct position on the body.

Meducate: And because you’re also a communications expert, you can give feedback on their ability to communicate effectively and build rapport with the patient.

Mark: Absolutely yes. Communication is a vital part of the examination process and it would be remiss of me to allow a student to carry on if they couldn’t build rapport with the patient.

Meducate: So can you describe a typical session with an ACE?

Mark: So normally a body system is picked for the day and the ACE will be working with four to six students. Sometimes the clinician may do a live demonstration using the ACE as the model, and then the students will be taken through the various pathologies they may come across on a typical patient. The students would then be left to work with the ACE, and they would then give feedback about how well they are doing. Having a “Talk the Walk” approach works very well, as we can direct the student toward the correct method right from the start. Sometimes we may run a scenario alongside the physical examination and thereby making it more realistic. With the help of the clinician present, we will also include a management plan and how to explain that to the patient in layman’s terms. We can also present various pathologies to the student such as asymmetrical breathing, antalgic gait, Shortness of breath and many more. We even have a member of the team who can create ulcers, bruising, and other physical signs using moulage.

Meducate: I have heard students say that they feel more relaxed when working with an ACE can you expand on that?

Mark: Yes, when a student has a clinician in the room they feel that they are being judged. Which of course is true. We are there as a resource, a tool, if you will to help them develop without judgement. It is true that we assess them, but not professionally. We are not qualified Medics!

 Meducate: ACEs are often used in OSCEs to great effect. How does that work?

Mark: During an OSCE it is not possible for the examiner to feel what is going on such as palpation, and that’s where we can give our feedback about how well the palpation went. Whether it was painful or too light. Because of our intensive hands on training, we know what a good technique is. This ensures that the PA is safe to practice once qualified. It should be remembered too that we have probably been involved in thousands of OSCEs, so we have an extensive experience, often much more than the examiners themselves. Examiners often remark on how extensive our knowledge is!

Meducate: Better than a real patient?

Mark: Yes, very different. A patient will not be qualified to give feedback. Of course, working with real patients is also valuable to the learning process.

Meducate: Thanks for taking time out to chat with us, Mark.

Meducate Academy Educating The Next Generation Of PAs

ACE Mark Reynolds roleplaying with a 1st Year PA student at The University of Chester
Meducate ACE Mark Reynolds roleplaying with a 1st Year PA student at The University of Chester 1st Year OSCE

Meducate Academy has had a busy two weeks working alongside the University of Chester, University of Wolverhampton and Matrix Education on several exciting projects.

As always, Matrix Education delivered an excellent two day course, this time in a beautiful hotel deep in the heart of London’s West End. We were there in our capacity as Role Players and Associate Clinical Educators providing our role play and lay clinical education services to the PA students about to take their National Exams. Students from Bournemouth, Reading, Sheffield, Birmingham and other parts of the UK were in attendance.

We encouraged the students to stay engaged with both history taking in the morning session and physical examinations in the afternoon. We also coached them in techniques that would allow them to get through the exams with confidence and advice on how to lower their stress levels prior to the OSCE.

Associated Clinical Educator Mark ReynoldsOnce the weekend was over we were booked to work with 2nd year PAs at the Riverside Campus at the University of Chester. They tasked us with delivering a whole range of skills. We went through all the systems exams from Musculo-skeletal, through Cardiovascular examinations and some challenging scenarios thrown in. One of our team also ran a breast examination station, giving the students an opportunity to practice important but often neglected skills, including feedback on their technique from the associate clinical educator.

After two days of teaching in Chester we were back on the road the next day day to Wolverhampton University, working on an OSCE with my old colleague and the developer of the ACE role, Professor Jim Parle and the PA Course Clinical Lead Pete Gorman.  Despite the obvious restrictions placed on us due to Covid-19, we were still able to perform at a high level.

Meducate were represented by two roleplayers on the day and the feedback was excellent.

This week has seen us travelling back up to Chester for a mock OSCE with 1st year PAs. We were tasked with providing two ACEs and also with the filming of one of the history stations. This presented us with its own challenges. We are fortunate in having some new cameras, lights and sound equipment, which proved their worth on the day. The quality of the video was excellent and Chester are thinking of using this set up as a regular feature of their training programme. It is a great way for students to check on their own progress and has the added bonus of being available for them to access during their revision.

It is great to get back to working with students once more, and for many the Covid-19 crisis has been problematic.

At Meducate Academy we used this time to create opportunities and we are glad to say that we have been having our most successful year yet.

I also spent some time chatting to one of our most senior ACEs and role players Mark Reynolds, and he offered to pen a few words about how much he enjoys his role working with Meducate Academy.

Mark has been involved in Medical Role Play and ACE work for over twelve years and he is also a great facilitator.

“I have been pleased to be part of the Meducate team since day one and hope that my input in those early days helped the company to shape the way forward.

Meducate is really up and running now and we are currently enjoying working for the Universities of Chester and Wolverhampton on their Physician Associate Programmes, as well as working on pre-national PA OSCE courses for Matrix Education.

ACE Mark Reynolds
Mark Reynolds

The role of the Associate Clinical Educator is something I have been identified with since 2008. My background in performance helped me to become an effective educator and I enjoy so much teaching clinical communication skills and body system examinations. I believe that it is very important in life to seek a role that makes a difference. I can see when my colleagues and I are working with PA students that we are making a difference to their learning; helping them to improve their communication and examination skills and most importantly, helping them to reach that point where they pass their formative and summative OSCEs.

I’m proud to be an ACE, indeed I’m one of the longest serving ones in the UK, and it’s a lot of fun working with these students and my colleagues too. When you’re having fun and being paid, life doesn’t get any better than that.”

Mark Reynolds

RECRUITMENT OPPORTUNITIES

If you are an Actor / Roleplayer who wishes to train as an Associate Clinical educator please get in touch with Matthew Chapman at Meducate Academy. We will be offering Free Training Courses in the coming months, to help you realise this ambition.