7 Days of PA Week at UNC Chapel Hill

PA Program Celebrates the PA Profession

October 30, 2018

By Brenna McManus and Sam Vaillancourt 

As PA students at UNC Chapel Hill, PA Week 2018 was an excellent opportunity for us to get engaged with our local Chapel Hill community, celebrate our future profession, and spread the word about the great work PAs can do. We took full advantage of PA Week and had a busy seven days!

PA students at UNC Chapel HillSaturday, October 6th: A Day of Service
This year’s PA Week kicked off with a day of service. In the morning, UNC PA faculty member Mary Beth McGranaghan, PA-C, invited first-year students to assist with a flu shot clinic held at Seasons Assisted Living, a dementia care community in Durham, North Carolina, where PA McGranaghan regularly sees patients. We were excited to return to the facility after practicing our neurologic exams and cognitive screening tests there earlier in the year.

PA students at a Habitat for Humanity buildThat afternoon, some of our classmates traveled to Hillsborough, North Carolina, for a Habitat for Humanity build. Our peers spent the afternoon constructing the rough framing for Crescent Magnolia, an affordable senior housing community aimed to provide stable housing for those 55 years and older.

Students worked alongside future homeowners, who are required to put “sweat equity” into their future homes. Our crew leader highlighted modifications that would make the housing safer for seniors, including wider doorways and walk-in showers. These volunteer opportunities were true to our program’s mission to serve North Carolinians and speak to our ongoing community service efforts as a cohort.

Sunday, October 7th: PA Week Prep
School doesn’t stop for PA Week! To ensure we could spend weekdays celebrating PAs and representing our program, we spent Sunday hitting the books. PA Week included pharmacology and diagnostic methods exams and a standardized patient. Behind the scenes, our Student Society planned our entries for AAPA’s Instagram Photo Challenge and put together cards and flowers to thank our faculty members for all they do to support our education every day.

Monday, October 8th: Pizza Party & Future PAs
After knocking out our pharmacology exam and a neurology lecture, the first-year class got together to throw a lunchtime pizza party to celebrate our hard work. Monday also marked the beginning of applicant interviews for the program’s class of 2020, so a few students skipped the party to have lunch with interviewees. UNC PA’s interview days include an escape room challenge and a student-run lunchtime Q&A with current clinical and didactic year students so that prospective students have a low-stress environment to ask questions. We enjoy the opportunity to show off our program and share tips for success in PA school!

PA students participating in a simulation labTuesday, October 9th: Simulation Day
On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to practice our clinical reasoning and teamwork skills with our very first team-based simulation lab. Groups of five students worked together to treat Sim Man, who presented with appendicitis and subsequent postoperative complications. Simulation day was a student favorite and left our first-years excited about entering clinical rotations in January.

Meanwhile, more students met with the second day’s groups of interviewees. Tuesday prompted reflection upon how far we have come since being in the shoes of the interviewees just one year ago!

Wednesday, October 10th: Wellness Session
Wednesday was spent preparing to be well-rounded PAs. The UNC PA program partners with certified career and leadership coach Jim Richmond to promote wellness and assist students through the professional challenges of both didactic and clinical years. On Wednesday, Richmond held a Professionalism and Resiliency session for first-years, encouraging us to reflect on our own development as future PAs. We are lucky to attend a program that places so much emphasis on holistic education and a commitment to wellness.

We also held our last day of interviews for our next cohort of students. We all had a wonderful time getting to know these future PAs and are thrilled to welcome some of them to our program in January!

PA students at the UNC PA Week BoothThursday, October 11th: PA Appreciation Booth & Second Year End of Rotations
After completing our standardized patients, first-year students headed over to UNC Hospitals to man the PA Week booth. We spent the afternoon spreading the word about PAs, UNC’s PA program, and busting myths about the profession. We invited all PAs working in the hospital to stop by for a PA pin and thank you card and were thrilled to see many of them sign up to be preceptors for clinical year students.

Today was also the last callback day and last end-of-rotation examination for the second-year students–a milestone certainly worth celebrating along with PA Week! Next, they will be working on their capstone projects, summative assessments, and boards review as they prepare for graduation in December.

Friday, October 12th: Casual Friday
In exchange for a $2 donation to our Student Society, Fridays are casual at UNC PA. Funds raised help the Student Society work toward our goal of funding the next cohort’s AAPA membership dues in full. In honor of PA Week, casual Friday was free of charge this week.

Casual Fridays also help facilitate another UNC PA tradition, #PAFitnessFridays. UNC PA has a commitment to recruiting veterans to the program and our veterans volunteer to lead optional group workouts after Friday classes. #PAFitnessFriday is a great opportunity to bond with classmates, practice self-care, practice what we preach in preventative medicine, and a great end to PA Week 2018.

PA students participating in #PAFitnessFridays

About the authors and UNC PA:

Brenna McManus worked in a primary care clinic at the University of North Carolina supporting patients with complex chronic diseases and multiple barriers to care. There, she worked with exceptional advanced practice providers and developed a passion for primary care. UNC PA was the perfect fit for her due to its focus on primary care and service to North Carolinians.

Sam Vaillancourt has lived in the Chapel Hill area since childhood and earned her clinical hours working as an inpatient nursing assistant at UNC Health Care. Attending UNC PA has allowed her to stay close to home, serve the community she was raised in, and train at the same institution where she fell in love with patient care. It also allowed her to utilize her educational background in clinical bioethics as the first UNC PA student to join UNC Health Care’s Hospital Ethics Committee.

To keep up with their program, follow them on Twitter at @UNC_PA or Instagram at @UNCPAStudentSociety.

Additional Resources:

Student Perspectives

Student Membership


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