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In the Shadow of COVID 19: Program Creates Virtual Addiction Medicine Rotation

Friday, August 7, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Blake Manz
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The COVID 19 pandemic magnified health care issues across the world, including opioid use disorders. Overdose-related emergency calls increased by 54% in Milwaukee county during March and April 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.[1] The onset of the pandemic also affected clinical education opportunities, removing students from on-site training rotations.

In response, the UW-Madison PA Program created and implemented a virtual clinical rotation in addiction medicine, where all graduates were trained to provide lifesaving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to patients struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD) and earned their DATA Waiver (X license). In 2019, the Program was one of six programs nationally to receive HRSA funding to develop programming targeting addiction medicine. Drug overdoses are the number one cause of accidental death in the US, higher than motor vehicle crashes or firearm related events.[2] The virtual clinical rotation presented an opportunity to introduce the more robust addiction medicine component to the program’s curriculum.

“PA faculty provided many perspectives to help us better understand addiction. It will be useful in most practice settings,” said one student. “This is something all classes should learn going forward. Who knew something so positive could come from COVID?” added another. PA faculty Amy Parins, PA-C, and Alissa DeVos, PA-C, created the course with the help of PA educational technology consultant Michelle Ostmoe.

The Program’s focus on addiction medicine is already making an impact. PA Program 2020 graduate, Brittany Gerovac has already accepted a position at Monarch Health, a new addiction treatment facility in Madison.

Parins led the first interprofessional virtual Addiction Medicine: Cases of Patients featuring two patients who candidly shared their lives and experiences — addiction, provider bias, treatment, recovery — with the class. Students also read and discussed I Love You, More: Short Stories of Addiction, Recovery, and Loss from the Family's Perspective, by Blake E. Cohen.

Parins also relayed a personal experience with addiction, sharing her family’s story. Her brother Adam died from an opioid overdose in 2019.

“Sharing my brother’s suffering and death with my students brings air and light into this vast wound in my chest. It hurts more, for a while, but in the end the light must bring healing. I can feel his story carried forward in our students as they enter into the clinical world and sit across from people who are struggling with addiction with more understanding and compassion.”