Board Candidate

Kara Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C

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Director at Large Platform Statement

Serving on the PAEA Board as a Director at Large for the last two years have been both an honor and humbling experience. I have had the pleasure of learning more about our organization, the resources that are available to member programs, but more importantly how necessary PA educators are to the future of the PA profession. Although I have been both a practicing PA and PA educator for the last seven years, serving on the Board has been an awesome learning experience for both my professional and personal growth. From advocating on behalf of the profession with my state senators, to engaging with the students who will be the next generation of PA educators, and being pushed by PAEA leadership to be bold has solidified my love of our profession.

However, as we are looking forward to the next fifty years of our profession, there is work that yet remains. PA educators should be at the forefront of the who, what, where and how PA medical practice will look. We need to continue to push for inclusion and diversity of our profession. We need to continue to push to shape what competencies all PA program graduates should know. We need to continue to push for where our students can be clinically educated. We need to continue to push for the utilization of PAs throughout the spectrum of medicine. I am running for a second term in the position of Director at Large to continue the work to of helping PA programs find ways to become more inclusive and diverse, to help create consistency in how we measure student competencies and insure that organization continues to advocate on behalf of member programs.

Q&A

What attributes characterize a high-performing Board member and which of these attributes do you possess?

The attributes that I believe a high-performing Board member should possess include being an active listener, having a willingness to speak up and advocate for the profession, and thinking strategically. While being on the Board for the last two years, the professional growth and development that I have received has been invaluable. Partaking in regular conversations with PA educators across the country, has enhanced my ability to actively listen. By being an active listener during these conversations, it has allowed me to glean various methodologies and approaches that I have been able to utilize. Since entering PA education, I have had the privilege to engage with many undergraduate and graduate students at my institution. It always amazes me how little the students know about the profession and how we function. However, I reflect on my own ignorance of the profession, which I use to advocate for the profession and how we are a critical member of the healthcare team. Those conversations have led shadowing experiences and eventual admission into a PA program. Clinically, I have had to be strategic in dealing with difficult patients, or their family members, to allow for the best outcome for the patient's overall health. As an educator, I've had to strategize to outsmart some of the brilliant, type A students we all have encountered. However, to be an effective leader, strategic thinking is essential. Thankfully, by serving on the Board, this attribute has been enhanced and has helped in my leadership role at my institution.

 

The AAPA House of Delegates recently passed a resolution titled Optimal Team Practice that calls for the elimination of state laws and regulations that require a PA to have and/or report a supervisory, collaborating, or other specific relationship with a physician in order to practice. What changes, if any, do you think will need to occur in PA education to prepare new graduates to practice in an OTP environment?

With the passage of the resolution for Optimal Team Practice, by the AAPA House of Delegates, I believe we will need to make changes within PA education to ensure that our newly graduated students are more prepared and equipped to effectively practice without the requirement of an established relationship with our physician partners. While there are barriers, in some states, for PAs to practice in the full scope of our training, there is a progression to on-boarding a newly trained PA as compared to those with 2+ years of practice. While each PA program is unique in pre-requisite requirements, clinical experience, type of clinical experience and length of program, we all share the same basic philosophy and desire to produce quality PAs with the expectation to work in an established partnership with a physician. Our students know that as greater experience and competency develops, the level of autonomy also increases. As PA educators, we will need to collectively decide on the critical competencies our students will need to be autonomous at graduation. We may need to increase clinical rotations, consider additional pre-requisite courses, require a certain level of clinical experience and lengthen the time spent in training. As clinical rotations are already our rate limiting factor for our programs' success, the impact of OTP and how we recruit additional rotations with the expectations of the student having greater autonomy is a concern.

 

Describe a significant challenge you have faced as a leader and the strategies you used to respond effectively.

One of the greatest challenges that I face as a leader is to get team members to "buy in" to a new idea, new direction, or directional change. The first strategy is always to acknowledge the discomfort that is felt. Change is uncomfortable for all of us, but some adapt to change more quickly than others. It is imperative to not ignore or become impatient with those who adapt more slowly. I have found that asking team members to share with me their concerns regarding the change and how they feel it may be detrimental to their current work is beneficial to address the lack of clarity that I may have caused. The next strategy that I find beneficial is to give team members an opportunity to come up with another approach that yet allows us to reach the outcome that is intended. Giving team members ownership of the change and demonstrating my own flexibility in how to implement change, demonstrates the teamwork that is needed to effect growth and success.

 

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