Academics, Campus wide, College of Health Sciences

PA students focus on pediatrics in outdoor class

By Jenna Johnson | October 5, 2021

Physician assistant students at Charleston Southern University participated in COVID-safe pediatric examinations on Friday—outside of the Health Science building. Every fall semester, the PA program offers a Fundamentals of Pediatrics course that focuses on teaching how to approach the well child visit, including developmental milestones, immunizations, screenings, and physical exams. Children of CSU faculty members volunteered.

Dr. Gabrielle Poole, director of the Physician Assistant Program, said that students learn how to complete a head-to-toe examination of pediatric patients. “The students get to work on the skills that allow them to gain the trust of the child (and often their parent) to allow them to do the physical exams they need to perform in light of their medical history to diagnose and treat them appropriately.” 

Students Rebekah Blankenship and Jordan Kramer plan to pursue pediatrics in their career.

Blankenship, whose heart for medicine began as a missionary kid in East Asia, worked in pediatrics prior to entering CSU’s PA program. “My favorite part of working with kids was getting to take a break from the regimented social constructs of adult life and getting to play games with them, listen to their stories and learn to see things through their eyes,” she explained. “I always tell people that working with kids means you have to learn a whole new language. I think that’s the key to pediatrics—learning how to explain scary medical procedures in a way that they can comprehend and even get excited about—for example, measuring blood pressure becomes ‘checking your muscles to see how strong you are,’ and standing on the scale becomes ‘checking to see if you’re as big as Batman.’”

Coming from a preventative care background, Kramer said that she wants to help children avoid many of life’s medical problems by teaching them healthy habits early in life. “I think the experience my class had with the children helped many of us feel more comfortable around children and learn how to talk on their level.”

Both Kramer and Blankenship seek to become physician assistants in order to meet the medical needs of patients at a faster and more flexible pace. 

“I knew I wanted to pursue medicine from a very young age because I grew up in East Asia and witnessed firsthand the staggering medical needs that exist in third world countries,” said Blankenship. “I specifically chose the PA path into medicine because it is incredibly flexible, allowing you to enter any specialty at any time after graduation which allows you to adapt to the needs of your community.”

Kramer agrees. “I get to work through problems like an MD/DO, but I get to work with patients much quicker and in any field I want.”

The PA program also has courses in Patient Assessment and Diagnostic Methods where the students learn physical exam skills, procedural skills, and diagnostic skills and interpretation. They do this for each major module, including dermatology, pulmonology, cardiology, women’s health and more. 

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