Hybrid Education: The Future of Physician Assistant Education

Having reviewed the state of PA education in 2020, we're now looking ahead to the future of PA education.


This is an excerpt from Massey & Martin, LLC’s upcoming book, Learn to Love Data—to be released in February 2021!

As PA education faces its (hopefully, soon-to-be) post-COVID future, hybrid education will remain in PA programs that have embraced it. It will spread across existing PA programs and be a consideration (and likely solid part) of the design and development of new PA programs seeking provisional accreditation.


Evidence supporting hybrid PA education expands beyond the anecdotal stories told by PA programs persisting through the pandemic in the form of existing distance and hybrid programs. PA programs considering hybrid instruction are unlikely to be the first instance students encounter this type of learning; the number of students engaging in online education before the pandemic hit was already increasing. Other recent data indicates distance education and the number of students engaged in a mix of distance and non-distance courses has also been increasing. An additional consideration is the ubiquity of telemedicine and the use of technology in providing continuing professional development for health care practitioners.


The following section presents the approach of one institution in designing a hybrid program and may serve as a roadmap for others considering the development of such a program.

Rationale

The decision to evolve toward a hybrid instructional model is based on several strategic goals of the school and the university, including advancing educational excellence through innovative and best practices; increasing access to the academic programming offered by our institution; further diversifying our students, staff, and faculty populations; and building infrastructure by adding new technologies, programming, partnerships, and expertise to our pool of resources. Hybrid pedagogy in PA education allows for the integration of multiple instructional methodologies, especially technological resources, as instructors guide learners toward competence and meeting program outcomes. Removing the geographic consideration that may limit some students’ decisions on if or where to pursue their academic goals, the hybrid program increases the accessibility to this education and allows individuals to remain in their home communities for much, if not all, of the program. This could serve to reduce the burden on students geographically locating. In areas where PA programs are numerous, this can expand enrollment numbers for individual programs.


It is expected this will positively impact recruitment of individuals who are not interested in relocating and adapting to a new community. Further, a hybrid program adds to the diversity of resources of the new PA faculty as staff develop and integrate new technologies and processes into their practices, and as the institution and program identify areas where administrative support is needed and develop infrastructure or partnerships with external entities to fill those gaps.


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