CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina –
Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune has welcomed its inaugural class of Physician Assistant students to the Medical Center as part of a pilot program. The students arrived on January 19, 2021 to begin a year-long journey with military medicine’s Interservice Physician Assistant Program or IPAP.
“NMCCL’s campus is a pilot program and, if successful, will hopefully move NMCCL to become a more permanent training site,” explained Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Bennett, IPAP Phase II Clinical Coordinator.
IPAP consists of a 64-week Phase I at the Army Medical Center of Excellence at Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Then comes a 57-week Phase II at a selected military treatment facility. This is NMCCL’s first time servicing as a Phase II location for the program.
According to the IPAP Phase II handbook, the mission of the program is to: “provide the uniformed services with highly competent, compassionate Physician Assistants [or PAs] who model integrity, strive for leadership, excellence, and are committed to lifelong learning.”
During Phase II, the students will gain clinical experience based on the book knowledge they received during Phase I. The PA students will rotate through a variety of clinical settings such as orthopedic surgery, internal medicine including cardiology and neurology, and psychiatry to name a few.
“Upon certification and commissioning in early March of next year, the students will then enter the fleet as newly minted Lieutenant Junior Grades and go on to serve aboard ships, with the Marines, or in hospitals and clinics around the world,” said Bennett.
The eight students, all prior enlisted and now Officer Candidates, traveled from around the United States to begin this next portion of IPAP. Officer Candidate and prior Chief Petty Officer Maxwell Hargrove has great hopes for NMCCL’s pilot program.
“I hope that we can spread the knowledge of the PA in the military and the knowledge of their ability to be a force multiplier,” said Hargrove. “I see the PA as a being a good midlevel provider who bridges the gap between regular corpsmen and physicians; it’s another avenue for keeping Marines and Sailors healthy.”
According to Bennett, NMCCL was able to build the program in four months, answering the Navy’s call for a new location necessary for training Navy PA students. “The exposure to medicine for these PA students is fairly comprehensive as it’s engineered in the manner to prepare them for Primary Care/Family Medicine with an emphasis in Urgent Care/Emergency medicine…these eight students are forging this program, and in 13 months they reap the reward of their labor.”
Hargrove and the other students are eager to delve into their rotations and are looking forward to caring for NMCCL beneficiaries and helping the doctor and nursing staff.
“When a lot of people go to the hospital they think, ‘I’m going to go to the doctor’ and when they get to the doctor’s, they might see a different practitioner like a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, or they might see a medical doctor,” Hargrove elaborated. “In a family care setting, there’s only so much each role can do, but a PA allows for physicians to be able to do more specialized services that they’ve been trained to do, and we [PAs] can take a lot of that workload.”
When asked about whether the pandemic has had an effect on launching the program, Bennett replied that IPAP will be using current events to their educational benefit.
“The flipside is that COVID has provided the students with the Acute Respiratory Clinic/COVID testing site as one of their training sites…they will learn from a volume standpoint the need for efficiency in history taking, testing and charting on each patient.”
Upon arrival to NMCCL, the PA students quickly moved to the beginning weeks of clinical instruction. Instruction throughout Phase II will be given by precepting physicians, other PAs, and health care providers who will educate and supervise learning in both inpatient and outpatient environments.