Listen to These “Top 5” Vital Minds Episodes

New Episodes Coming Soon

May 5, 2022

By Katy Shenk

Logo with earbuds and the text Vital Minds

Since 2017, the PA Foundation (PAF) – AAPA’s philanthropic arm – has been producing a podcast for PAs, PA students, and other healthcare providers called Vital Minds, hosted by early career PA James Millward, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C. The podcast invites guest experts to answer questions about critical issues in clinical care, with key takeaways for PAs and their patients. In anticipation of new episodes dropping in the coming months, we’ve compiled a highlight reel of the “Top 5” episodes to listen to now, featuring everything from nutrition to COVID-19 and health inequities. So take a walk, go on a drive, or settle in, and tune into these informative and timely episodes.

  1. Episode 11 – Healthcare Provider Burnout

As our nation faces a mental health crisis, AAPA and PAF are tackling this issue on multiple fronts – for instance, mental health is the theme of AAPA 2022. In this episode, PAs in psychiatry Nelae Keene, PA-C, and Jay Somers, PA-C, address the topic of burnout, generally defined as mental and physical breakdown as a result of stress and overwork. Somers discusses the differences between external stress, which can come from navigating the healthcare system, and inherent stress, which can arise from the demands of caring for suffering patients. Keene recommends several strategies for combatting and proactively addressing burnout, like taking advantage of vacation days, seeking out therapy, and practicing mindfulness through yoga, meditation, or journaling.

Why This Episode? Treating burnout is key to PAs’ health, especially because it affects the quality of care you can provide to patients.

  1. Episode 13 – Food for Thought: Reframing Nutrition with Patients

In discussing her decision to pursue a career in nutrition, guest Ellen Mandel, MPA, PA-C, RN, CDE – a nutritionist and diabetes educator – says she was thrilled to find out that “being a dietician [would] actually put food on my table.” Mandel emphasizes the importance of prevention and treatment when it comes to health conditions associated with poor nutrition, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. She offers advice for helping patients from lower socioeconomic statuses – who may live in food deserts without access to fresh produce, for example – improve their nutrition. Dismantling the stigma and shame surrounding obesity, diabetes, and being overweight is another key aspect of improving patients’ access to nutritional education. Listen to the episode to hear Mandel’s one main piece of advice about nutrition – although it probably won’t surprise you!

Why This Episode? Simply advising patients to “eat healthy” belies the socioeconomic factors that influence nutrition, which PAs should be prepared to discuss with patients.

  1. Episode 16 – PA School and Beyond: Perspectives From PA Student Leaders

Attention pre-PAs and PA students – this episode is for you! Co-hosted by PA Millward and AAPA’s own Andrea Lowe, PA-C, this episode features a conversation between three PA students: Cooper Couch, Katie Ganser, and Kaci Hardsock. Hear how each of these students approached the PA profession from a different academic background (Spanish, business, and nutrition) and why they decided to become PAs. They discuss preparing to apply to PA programs, how to get creative about meeting program requirements, and their various relevant experiences, clinical and otherwise. In reflecting on how they chose their specialties – cardiothoracic surgery, family medicine, and primary care, respectively – one common thread emerges: the desire to connect with patients and make an impact in patient care.

Why This Episode? Whether you’re applying to PA programs or reflecting on your career, get inspired by these young, passionate PA student leaders.

  1. Episode 17 – COVID-19: Emotional Toll on Healthcare Providers

This episode aired in June 2020, shortly after the U.S. passed the sobering milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. Two plus years into the pandemic, this topic is even more relevant as PAs and healthcare providers continue to treat COVID-19 patients. Guests Catherine Judd, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA, and Charles Raison, MD, give voice to their own lived experiences and the shared experiences of frontline clinicians. They remind listeners that while it’s normal to feel anxious during these uncertain times, the constant and unique trauma of caring for patients during a pandemic should not go unaddressed. Healthcare providers should be equipped to care for their own mental health as well as that of their patients, as, according to Judd, the need for PAs trained to address mental and behavioral health is ubiquitous.

Why This Episode? If you’ve been caring for patients in any capacity during the pandemic, you aren’t alone in feeling the emotional toll. Follow these guest experts’ advice to prioritize your own mental health.

  1. Episode 21 – Health Inequities: Understanding Data and Bridging the Care Gap

In this episode, guest hosted by PA Lowe, Deanna Bridge Najera, PA-C, DFAAPA, and Tori Marsh, MPH, explore how socioeconomic factors contribute to health disparities and how these gaps in care have been compounded by COVID-19. Both guests discuss how race, geographic location, insurance coverage, and income all influence patient care and health equity. Can patients afford a visit to a primary care provider? What about their prescription? Where is the closest pharmacy? According to Najera, questions like these can go unasked and unanswered by providers and patients, obscuring barriers to care. Be aware of these circumstances, she advises – the health of your patients is at stake.

Why This Episode? COVID-19 has exacerbated health disparities, and PAs play a key role in ensuring patients have access to health services.

Vital Minds is available on the PA Foundation website and Apple Podcasts. Subscribe now, check out other episodes you might have missed, and stay tuned for new episodes coming soon.

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Telemedicine: The Importance of Addressing Mental Health
Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse
Self-Care and Stress Reduction: Adopting a Yoga Mindset in Clinical Practice
Resources Help Spanish-Speaking Patients Make Positive Nutrition Choices

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