Healthcare professionals spend years obtaining complex medical degrees. The education department at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital helps ensure the learning continues, not only for GLWACH staff, but for hospitals across the entire state of Missouri.
Jordan Walters, chief of Hospital Education and Staff Development at GLWACH, said the training and education support programs offered here include virtual and in-person clinical training opportunities.
“Our HESD clinical staff members provide the required training healthcare professionals need to maintain their credentials,” Walters said.
One of the programs the hospital supports is the Interservice Physician Assistant Program, which offers enlisted and officer service members from any career field the opportunity to become PAs, said Maj. Jon Thibodeau, GLWACH’s PA training coordinator.
GLWACH trains about 10 students each year in the hands-on, phase two portion of the 29-month program.
Staff Sgt. Stephanie Foster, a medic in the Oklahoma National Guard, is set to graduate the PA program in October. She called the course challenging.
“So many challenges and a lot of successes, too,” She said. “It’s like drinking from a fire hose with the information and putting it all back together in phase two when you actually have the patient in front of you.”
Foster said GLWACH’s education department allows PA students like her the chance to rehearse trauma scenarios – an invaluable resource.
“Trauma is increased muscle memory for us,” She said. “It’s like an algorhythm when to do what actions. That way when it’s a scary situation, you have practiced it enough and remember it.”
Like Foster, 1st Lt. Austin Brown, from Hebrew Springs, Arkansas, is also currently enrolled in the PA program here.
Brown joined the Army Reserve as an enlisted Soldier four years ago. He received an ROTC scholarship and attended college, afterwards commissioning as a medical service officer.
He said the opportunity to do more was there and felt a calling to the PA program. Once he had the 60 credit hours necessary — and other prerequisites — he decided to put in his application.
“I got some really good advice from my PA, Capt. Robert Gibson, and he gave me some advice on what to do for my (application) packet and I got picked up on the first go-around. I felt very blessed for that.”
Brown said phase two is a demanding time, where students live week-by-week through various tests and challenges.
“I did not have a medical background beforehand,” said Brown. “But we had students who were master sergeants or flight medics, or Special Forces medics with a lot of diverse knowledge. Listening to them and their experience was a huge advantage.”
He said he studies at home when he can to spend more time with his wife and kids, and has advice for anyone thinking of applying.
“If I’m talking to an ROTC cadet, I would say to go and talk to PAs,” he said. “Go get the prerequisites, look up the program to get a lot of information. The best thing to me was to find someone who has already gone through the program because that’s where you get most of your knowledge.”