Clinical Artibus et Practicum: External Education at Salus

One of the many advantages a new Salus graduate has over peers from other institutions is early and continual exposure to the clinical side of his/her profession during their days as a student. An emphasis on early clinical skills has long been a hallmark of the optometry program and it is no different for audiology and physician assistant students.

For programs in the College of Education and Rehabilitation – blindness and low vision studies, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology - it has been challenging over the years to raise the collective awareness about the terms “fieldwork” and “client” as opposed to “clinical skills” and “patient” with regard to their students.

What the process is called and how all of these skills are honed may differ from program to program. What has never wavered however is the institutional commitment to early exposure and the transition from lab-learned skills to real-life practice.

Optometry Program Externships
Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Optometry ExternshipsStudents in the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) start a limited primary care externship rotation during the final quarter of the third year. During the fourth year, students have three additional rotations with an emphasis on ocular diseases, contact lenses and interprofessional health care within hospital settings. Students also spend one quarter on campus at The Eye Institute, the University’s clinical optometric facility, where they have the opportunity to rotate through primary care, neuro-ophthalmic disease, contact lenses, vision rehabilitation, and pediatric/binocular vision services.
  
  • Students begin to identify their preferred sites in their second year. Over the next twelve months they study previous student evaluations of their sites, discuss placements and meet one-on-one with Jamie Lindsay, assistant director of the Externship Program, or Dr. Satya Verma, director of Externship Programs for PCO, to assess their interests and needs.
  • If students express interest in a practice that is not on the approved list, the externship program reaches out to the practice to determine their interest in becoming a preceptor. This is followed by a thorough review of the practice in regard to geographic location, the variety and number of patients, available space for the students to work independently and the preceptor’s motivation for teaching. Once the site is approved, it is available to every student - not only to the student who identified the site.
  • Students must sign a contract once their externship sites have been confirmed, and individual preceptors also sign an agreement.
  • PCO students have one shorter rotation in their third year (March to May) and three rotations plus a rotation at The Eye Institute in their fourth year. Students may not rotate through the same site more than once.
  • Assessment methods are the same for all sites with a heavy reliance on preceptors’ input. Preceptors are asked to evaluate each student three times during their rotation – four weeks after the rotation initially starts, at the half way point and a final evaluation at the end.
  • Students must also complete two evaluations of each site halfway through the rotation and at the end of each rotation, which are submitted anonymously.
  • During rotations, students must log in to the University’s clinical tracking system every two weeks. If reports and evaluations are not submitted on time, students lose part of their grade.
According to Dr. Verma, occasionally a student may struggle at a site, which can be a knowledge-based, clinical skills or personality struggle. When that happens, he finds small interventions usually work to solve any problems. And, remediation tactics are in place for struggling students as necessary.
 
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