Guide to McMaster’s 1st year PA Longitudinal Placements (LPs)

Sarah is a former registered massage therapist, turned PA student, and she just completed 1st year PA School at McMaster University!

Here she shares tips on what to expect for longitudinal placements, how to prepare for an upcoming placement.

Watch or listen to Sarah’s Tips for Longitudinal Placements:

What is a Longitudinal Placement?

A longitudinal placement (LP) is a one or two day learning experience. It can be done over several days, but essentially you come in and it’s self organized by the student.

So say, for example, I want to organize one in respiratory therapy. I would reach out to a personal contact, my mom who is a respiratory therapist, and say ‘hey mom, is there any respiratory therapists that you know that would be willing to take on a student for a day or two?’

And ‘what’s the level of administrative work required behind that?

And usually they get it set up quite easily because generally facilities are wonderful with learners, and they want to be able to help all of the learners that are one day going to be working in the profession. So I think they do the best of their ability, given the volume of requests for placements they get from medical learners.

How do you setup an LP?

You require four LPs, longitudinal placement in 1st year

I make it sound very breezy but it isn’t necessarily always that easy to get them.

It’s easier if you have contacts but say you’re coming into PA school in all of your family knows business or law and that’s not an area that you have contacts in it, it can make it a little bit more challenging.

But there are data banks that the program provides  where you can find contact information of preceptors willing to take on PA students.

See where McMaster PA students have completed LPs →

Having PA Preceptors on LPs

I know other people in the profession, that are currently working as physician assistants are generally quite open to taking as students as well. It’s so gracious of them because everyone needs to get that start somewhere. And it was something I always loved doing for massage.

Even if people wanted to come in and ask me a few questions, I didn’t know them. They were looking at the program and I thought, it’s a little bit of altruism in terms of helping your community and doing something that you don’t necessarily gain a whole bunch of benefit for. So the longitudinal placements are a great opportunity for students, but I think students also must show their gratitude and their respect for having the opportunity as well. I’ve had some pretty wonderful opportunities and saying thank you goes a long way to not only being invited back but maybe having a job some place someday.

How to Get the most out of your LP Placement

Do your research. If you don’t know about an industry or an area going into it, don’t just put it on that teacher for you to then learn those concepts.

Come prepared, knowing what you want to learn. Maybe what are some of the common things that you might see there?

Even if it’s a specialty and you have no idea what that person, the four specific procedures, they do have an idea of what that specialty entails, what it may be a day would be in like that. And just what you want to learn as a physician assistant and take away from that experience. The one that I feel I prepared the most for, I feel like I got the most out of. You get out of it what you put in.

How to Dress for an LP

What you wear to a placement will vary, because every institution and every placement is different. Just ask

Fore example, I was going into surgery and I didn’t know whether I was supposed to wear scrubs from that institution or bring my own or whether, because we were on clinical rounds that day, was I still supposed to be in scrubs or was I supposed to wear business casual?

The surgeon just forwarded me to his administrative assistant and she was able to be such a valuable resource in some of those day to day tasks.

They’re not the specific surgical tasks that you’re necessarily gonna ask that person, but they can be so helpful in giving you background information. So use them as a resource for some of your more administrative questions like parking and what to wear, where to show up, who to talk to to get your badge.

How much contact do PA students get with patients?

When it comes to doing procedures or being, partaking in anything, it really is up to the institution and their policy. So some places I was able to get in, grab my stethoscope and listen to different heart murmurs at one hospital.

Whereas in another hospital it was absolutely no touching it felt like, I needed to have like this buffer zone so that I didn’t get too close so that I wouldn’t risk touching the patient. Because you want to be respectful

Again, this is an opportunity that they’re extending to you. Patients are in extremely vulnerable situations sometimes and you just want to be as respectful as you can with everything that you do.

Again not only are you representing your school, yourself, your profession but maybe you might get a job one day and we all as students are always thinking about that next step of getting a job.

Watch Sarah’s Full Interview