Jennifer Bell, associate professor of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies, and Amy Way, professor of Health Science at Lock Haven University Clearfield campus, presented the results of their research at the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in November.
The conference provided an opportunity for those interested in healthcare missions to exchange information and experiences, and learn about best practices.
Bell and Way’s research focused on the lived experience of health science and PA students who collaborated in an international service-learning program to Jamaica. The title of their presentation was “Students Benefit from Near Peer Mentoring While Serving in Jamaica.”
Students who participate in this short-term study abroad program through Lock Haven University live and volunteer in a rural community in south central Jamaica for one week. The results of their study provided for a better understanding of what the students experience when participating in the program.
Most notably, the students reported benefiting from near-peer mentoring, a relationship in which a more senior learner (a year or more above) provides guidance and support to a new junior learner to enable the new student to navigate their education. In this service-learning program, mentoring occurs between the PA students and the undergraduates, and among the PA students. Undergraduates aspiring to enter the PA program have the opportunity to learn first-hand from PA students in an extraordinary setting where they are challenged by lack of resources, conditions they may never encounter in the U.S. and the cultural, communication and educational barriers that come with working in a developing country.
The PA students who are about to graduate, mentor students who are still in the classroom and have little to no clinical experience. The results of this study will be used to better prepare students for international service-learning, and to promote student success.
“Researching the student experience was imperative for us as educators,” Bell said. “We will continue to work to offer these programs because of the benefits that they provide for our students.”
International service-learning, such as the program offered by Lock Haven University, provides an opportunity to work on interprofessional development within the PA profession, serving as a model for other programs and at other institutions.
LHU Clearfield offers nine undergraduate majors, including bachelor and associate degree programs. LHU is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth.