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First-of-its-kind Physician Assistant (PA) Training for Sickle Cell Disease Brings Knowledge, Addresses Health Equity | NEWS-Line for Healthcare Professionals
 


First-of-its-kind Physician Assistant (PA) Training for Sickle Cell Disease Brings Knowledge, Addresses Health Equity


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In response to severe shortages of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) expertise among health care providers, Networking California for Sickle Cell Care, California’s first and only SCD consortium, has partnered with Marshall B. Ketchum University’s School of PA Studies to create and pilot a six-week certificate elective in SCD for physician assistant (PA) students nearing graduation. The course offers structured lessons and practical application through clinical rotation coordinated by the Center for Inherited Blood Disorders (CIBD).

“This new program helps address the significant shortage of providers with expertise in Sickle Cell Disease, which has contributed to unnecessary death and complications for adults living with the debilitating disease,” said Judith Baker, DrPH, MHSA, Public Health Director, Center for Inherited Blood Disorders; Regional Administrator, Western States/Region IX Hemophilia Network; Public Health Director, Pacific Sickle Cell Regional Collaborative; and Public Health Director, Networking California for Sickle Cell Care. “The program also focuses on correcting historic health care inequities faced by the ethnic and racial minorities most impacted.”

An inherited blood disorder that affects the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen, SCD is a lifelong condition with no cure. Periodic episodes of pain are a hallmark symptom, yet what most people say is worse than the pain is the racial bias and dismissive treatment they receive when they present to the emergency room. In the adult population, there is a great deal of scrutiny and stigma associated with SCD and pain management. Prior to the Network’s establishment, comprehensive, equitable care was practically non-existent for the estimated 9,000 Californians living with the life-threatening condition. Without specialized services, adults in this medically vulnerable population had a life expectancy of only 43 years old – compared to the national average of 78 years.

“Through our partnership with the Network, we’re addressing a massive educational gap that existed within providers in our state,” Sandra G. Fineman, MPAS, PA-C, Director of Clinical Education, Assistant Professor, Marshall B. Ketchum University. “Our program is proudly providing PAs with the knowledge and tools needed to deliver patient-centered care through hands-on experience that most of our students never had access to before.”

Building a workforce of nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) who are knowledgeable of SCD is a critical component to the Network and its success since it was established in 2019. The novel training program, “Remote Learning Rotation in Telemedicine – specialty track in Sickle Cell Disease,” led by Marshall B. Ketchum University’s School of PA Studies, is addressing the knowledge gap by educating PAs statewide about SCD. The mini-credential course offers a medical overview of SCD, including health disparities and obstacles, reproductive issues, patient perspectives, and how the disease affects pediatrics and adults. A four to six-week (36-40 hours/week) clinical rotation provides PA students with hands-on patient care experience under the guidance of a board-certified preceptor, giving them the opportunity for practical application of the skills they’ve learned in the classroom.

This is the first-time coordinated training is taking place that will not only equip providers with the tools needed to diagnosis and treat SCD, but will also provide culturally sensitive training and best practices to create a network of caring and compassionate providers. In addition to growing California’s sickle cell workforce, the Network is also improving access to care for patients living with SCD by opening specialized adult sickle cell centers throughout the state, enhancing surveillance to better track the disease and analyze its impacts, and improving education and awareness of SCD.

In addition to training PAs, the Network has also partnered with Charles R. Drew University School of Medicine and Science (CDU) to train nurse practitioners (NPs). Dr. Juana Ferrerosa, PhD, MSN, PHN, RN, Director, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program and Assistant Professor, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science led the successful effort to obtain approval to offer a Specialty in Blood Disorders within CDU’s Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing.

“We’re honored to be part of this inaugural program educating NPs on how to effectively treat and care for people living with Sickle Cell Disease,” says Juana Ferrerosa, PhD, MSN, PHN, RN, Director, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program and Assistant Professor, CDU School of Medicine and Science. “I can’t tell you how happy our nurses are to be working hand-in-hand with patients, listening to their needs, and ultimately saving more lives.”

To learn more about the program contact Sandra Fineman: [email protected] or Dr. Judith Baker: [email protected]; or visit Networking California for Sickle Cell Care at https://sicklecellcare-ca.com.

Source: Center for Inherited Blood Disorders (CIBD)




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