Pfeiffer’s Inaugural PA Students Enter Clinical Rotations

PA Students Enter Clinical Rotations

Students in the inaugural class of Pfeiffer’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MS-PAS) program will soon complete their first clinical rotations -- an important milestone in the University’s efforts to address the shortage of PAs in rural areas.

Brenda Diaz is pleased with how her students are faring at various healthcare providers, including Atrium Health NorthEast, Atrium Health Stanly, Novant Health Lakeside Family Physicians, and Monarch.

“We’re getting really good reviews of our students and how they’re doing in their rotations,” said Diaz, who is The Anne Louise Keeney Chair and Program Director for MS-PAS. “I feel like a proud mother because, in many ways, these students are like my children. I built this program from the very beginning, and it is so exciting to reach this milestone.”

Diaz also praised the MS-PAS faculty for the successful way that they pivoted to an online platform during the current COVID-19 pandemic and/or taught small groups of heavily protected, socially distanced students in the Center for Health Sciences, the Albemarle, N.C. home of the MS-PAS program.

On May 3, after completing a 15-month didactic phase of training, the students began the first of nine scheduled clinical rotations. Each rotation lasts five weeks. The first will end early next month. Like the eight remaining rotations, it will conclude with three days of assessments of the students’ progress and a review of key information that will prepare them for their next rotations.

Each rotation focuses on one of eight specialty areas or an elective. The specialty areas include behavioral and mental health, emergency medicine, family medicine, women’s health, general surgery, pediatrics, orthopedics, and internal medicine.

Dalton Helms, a member of the MS-PAS’ first cohort, is doing a clinical rotation in emergency medicine at Atrium Health NorthEast. He said that the didactic phase prepared him well for his experiences there.

“Some specific examples that come to mind are how to interview a patient, do a thorough physical exam, and present cases to our preceptors,” he said. “In the emergency department specifically, recognizing signs and symptoms and forming a differential diagnosis is something Pfeiffer has prepared us for.”   

Rachel Nance, who’s from Stanly County, is another member of the MS-PAS program’s first cohort of students. She seemed particularly excited about what comes next after the conclusion of her rotation, which is in family medicine at Atrium Health Richfield Medical Services.

“I look forward to further improving my clinical, diagnosis, and treatment skills in order to provide even more effective and efficient care to my future patients,” she said. “I also look forward to discovering which specialty I hope to pursue after my physician assistant education.”

Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at​