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Screening for Undetected Depression in Physician Assistant Students

Cocke, Kenzie D. MPAS, PA-C; Klocko, David J. MPAS, PA-C; Kindratt, Tiffany B. PhD, MPH

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education: June 2019 - Volume 30 - Issue 2 - p 118–121
doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000247
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Purpose The purpose of this article was to measure and compare depressive symptoms among physician assistant students during didactic and clinical phases.

Methods Students (n = 123) completed the PHQ-9, and responses were scored in 2 ways (PHQ-2 and PHQ-9). First, submissions were deemed positive and assigned a severity if question 1 or 2 scored 3 or above (PHQ-2 method). Second, all submissions were summed and assigned a severity (PHQ-9 method).

Results Using the PHQ-2 method, 8.13% of students screened positive; using the PHQ-9 method, 98.37% screened positive for at least minimal depression. Almost half (47.15%) of the students reported mild to severe depression. No statistically significant differences were observed in total scores between classes (P = .1849). Statistically significant differences were observed when we examined feeling tired with little energy (P = .0028) and trouble with sleeping (P = .0436).

Conclusions Implementing routine depression screening of trainees and restricting the number of clinical work hours could help combat increasing fatigue. Earlier intervention and resources for students struggling with depressive symptoms are needed.

Kenzie D. Cocke, BS, MPAS, PA-C, completed this project as a physician assistant student at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Health Professions, Dallas, Texas.

David J. Klocko, MPAS, PA-C, is an associate professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Health Professions, Dallas, Texas.

Tiffany B. Kindratt, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor and the director of research in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Health Professions, Dallas, Texas.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Tiffany B. Kindratt, PhD, MPH, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Texas Southwestern School of Health Professions, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, V4.114, Dallas, TX 75390-9090. Telephone: (214) 648-1701; Email: Tiffany.kindratt@utsouthwestern.edu

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2019 Physician Assistant Education Association
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