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Assisted living community offers USF students real-world experience

University of South Florida Physician Assistant students now have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with patients before they enter the field for clinical training, thanks to a new partnership with Promise Pointe at Tampa Oaks, the area’s newest and finest assisted living community.

“We are excited to be collaborating with USF to help provide a senior care community where students in medical programs can participate in research projects and quality improvement programs at our state-of-the-art facility,” said Kirk D. Eicholtz, president and CEO of Christian Tyler Properties, owner of Promise Pointe. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to combine the great academic work being done at USF with a practical, hands-on, real world experience in day-to-day senior living and geriatric care.”

While the partnership opens the doors for other medical programs at USF, the inaugural group of students will be first-year Physician Assistant (PA) program participants. These students will have the opportunity to meet with willing residents at the Promise Pointe community and conduct an interview to collect a complete medical history for the resident.

“First-year [PA] students have not interviewed real life patients yet, that generally comes the second year of their curriculum,” said Jennifer Teeters, Assistant Professor of the Physician Assistant program at USF Morsani College of Medicine.  “We don’t want their first exposure with a real-life patient to come then. This particular facility gives them an opportunity to talk to what is likely a complex patient, take a comprehensive medical history and really get their feet wet. It really bridges the gap between our first- and second-year transition.”

Teeters added that residents at an assisted living community provide a more accurate picture of the types of patients students are likely to see in the field, given that older adults often face more medical challenges than those who are younger.

“It’s more realistic. Generally speaking, people that go to their family medicine practitioner  are going to have more medical conditions versus a healthy individual,” Teeters explained. “As a health care practitioner, you may only see patients ages 30 and under once a year for their annual physical, which is pretty easy. In terms of someone a little older, you have the opportunity to take histories on people with the possibility of several medical conditions where you don’t always get to the see that.”

Interviewing aging adults, Teeters said, also pushes students to begin thinking about different types of home accommodations for physical and medical needs of their patients, providing another unique educational opportunity.

“Assisted living facilities can offer unique living situations,” Teeters said. “Students can start thinking about working with home accommodations. Some may have some memory problems or more advanced aging problems. This is just a great opportunity to further these students’ knowledge base prior to entering their clinical rotations — we need facilities like this.”

For Promise Pointe, the partnership offers an opportunity to help train the students who will be caring for seniors as professionals, both in the Promise Pointe community and across the industry as a whole.

“The synergy that will be created by this affiliation will further prepare the students to be ready for the professional world as soon as they graduate from one of these Colleges at USF,” Eicholtz said. “Our primary goal with this relationship is to help improve the study of aging sciences for not only our residents and families living at Promise Pointe, but throughout our community sharing our best practices for use with future generations of students and our seniors.”

Leadership at Affinity Living Group (ALG), the management company for Promise Pointe, share Eicholtz’ excitement for the partnership and its benefits for the future of senior care.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to expose students to wonderful experiences in senior living and geriatric care,” said Dr. Kevin O’Neill, chief medical officer for ALG. “Students will learn to apply what they have studied in an academic setting to the reality of an assisted living setting.  There is an urgent national need for more geriatric care workers and leaders.  Hopefully, this experience will encourage more young men and women to pursue careers in senior living and geriatric care.”

The number of people over age 65 is expected to double by 2030, said ALG President and CEO Charles Trefzger, Jr. This “silver tsunami” is something the senior care industry is preparing for, Trefzger said.

“With the USF partnership, Promise Pointe will play an important role in training the next generation of geriatric practitioners,” Trefzger said. “It’s a win-win. Our residents will benefit from the time and attention of the PA students, who in turn will benefit from the hands-on experience – learning the real, day-to-day needs of senior citizens at an assisted living community.”

Promise Pointe at Tampa Oaks is an assisted living community owned by Christian Tyler Properties and managed by Affinity Living Group. To learn more, visit the Promise Pointe website at promisepointeseniorliving.com.