For PA Residency Students, Spring Break is Another Learning Experience

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Onieta Stewart calls this her “Spring un-Break.”

In the beginning of her week, she faced the normal day-to-day: Admitting patients, making sure they had their medications, reviewing their labs. And, when they got to feeling better, she helped them leave the hospital. Typical days pushed 12 hours. A typical week could top 60.

But for this week, she took a few days off — not to relax, and certainly not to visit a beach. For the last six months, Stewart, PA-C, has been participating in the Physician Assistant Academic Residency Program in Hospital Medicine/Critical Care at the St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead. That means that along with her long days, she also has to write a paper, and prepare for a midterm exam on March 28.

“I’m learning and preparing for my future career,” said the 44-year-old Stewart, who also juggles caring for her family, including her husband and 13-year-old son. “But I am not on vacation.”

It’s just an example of how not all the students in the College of Health Sciences are able to spend their Spring Breaks someplace tropical. Some are working on furthering their careers. Others are volunteering in other countries. Many of the examples involve CHS students helping people.

And Stewart made sure to point out that this is by choice: “I want to be a leader in our PA profession,” she said.

Because today, hospitals prefer to hire trained, job-ready Physician Assistants. In response to that need, faculty and staff within the College of Health Sciences took action, and created the first-of-its-kind Residency Program, the only destination for residents who wish to practice their craft and focus on the education behind the hands-on training.

“There are five pillars in the program — didactics, clinicals, monthly group lectures, teaching and research and scholarly activity,” Stewart said. “So, I’ll also be preparing to teach some classes.”

The PA Class of 2024 will hear from her on March 24 as she visits to discuss her experiences in the Residency Program.

“It’s all worth it — residency gives you the opportunity to have structured learning with set requirements on skills,” Stewart said. “This sets us up for success and will set us apart from others when applying for a job. I’ll have acquired skills it would take me years to get — if the opportunity would even be available. Think of it like a fast pass on the career roller coaster.”

And maybe, just maybe, she’ll have some time over the next few days to relax.

“Depends on if I finish my homework first,” she said, laughing.


Are you interested in the Physician Assistant Academic Residency Program?