Community medicine curriculum prepares physician assistant (PA) students to provide services to vulnerable and underserved populations. This article describes a service-learning model that uses a mobile health clinic (MHC) experience as part of the community medicine rotation. It provides an overview of the clinic's operation, patient documentation and characteristics, and student learning experiences.
Students collected demographic information on patients who visited the MHC during January through December 2017. The students summarized patient demographics and reflected on their experiences in a report.
Two main outcomes are discussed: characteristics of the MHC patients and student observations about their experiences. In 2017, 113 students rotated through the MHC and recorded 813 patient encounters. The largest proportions of patients reported living on the street or in a shelter (71%) and were older than 56 years (40%), males (74%), Caucasian (43%), single (65%), nonveterans (77%), and high school graduates (41%). The top 5 reasons for visits were preventive care, cognitive/functional impairment, cardiometabolic disorders, skin issues, and respiratory illness. The MHC experience and process of recording and analyzing demographic data contributed to students' data management and analytical skills. The students identified problems of recordkeeping and their implications for patient care, gained a greater understanding of medical needs and complexities of treating the homeless, and provided suggestions for improving quality and efficiency of care.
The MHC service-learning model provides diverse, meaningful experiences for students. Our findings benefit PA programs aiming to expand and strengthen their community medicine curriculum.