Introduction: In 2019 only 29.7% of PA programs in the United States required buprenorphine waiver education for their students.1 In this same year, only 0.9% of certified PAs in the state of Texas received waivers to provide buprenorphine to individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD).2,3 Could an intensive introductory course on the treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs), with a focus on OUD, in the PA curriculum, at a school that does not incorporate or require buprenorphine waiver training before graduation, prepare and motivate PA students to actively participate in the treatment of all SUDs, including OUD, considering the growing overdose crisis?
Method: A PA program in Texas offered four hours of didactic education during the second year of a three-year program in a lecture format with embedded case studies presented by a PA with expert knowledge in the treatment of SUDs. The didactic material was developed utilizing resources from Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), and other evidence-based medicine resources such as peer reviewed journal articles. Each student was invited to participate voluntarily in completing a pre- and post-lecture survey based on a five-point Likert scale. This project was granted IRB exemption through 45 CFR Part 46 § 46.104 - exempt research.
Results: With 53 of the 75 students in the class participating in the survey, 60% of the responders were either unsure, disagreed, or strongly disagreed that the four-hour course provided them with enough information on how to treat SUDs. However, 87% of students stated they will incorporate the treatment of SUDs, including OUD, into their practice. Additionally, 46% stated they planned to prescribe buprenorphine in their practice, and 26% affirming that they would complete the buprenorphine waiver training independently in the next year, before graduation.
Discussion: It is promising that 87% of the students plan to incorporate treatment of SUDS, and 46% stated they had any plans of prescribing buprenorphine in clinical practice. As this PA program does not make waiver training a requirement for graduation, it is not surprising that only 26% of students indicated a desire to complete training before graduation.
"Are Physician Assistant Students Prepared to Take Ownership of Addressing the Crisis of Rising Overdose Deaths Through the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders in Clinical Practice?,"
Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science: Vol. 2
, Article 100.
Available at: https://digitalshowcase.lynchburg.edu/dmscjournal/vol2/iss3/100
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