Ready. SET. Go – Austin Daily Herald

Ready. SET. Go – Austin Daily Herald


Published 16:57 Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Ellie Gertner is a physician assistant on her second rotation with SET. She said the experience has given her opportunities that are setting her up for a better career. Eric Johnson/[email protected] Mayo’s SET Clinic gives students the opportunity to learn under providers

Continuing education is at the core of development for those entering the medical field as they discover new ways to treat patients using the latest technology and techniques derived from science.

But patient treatment and patient care are sometimes two different things. A fairly new program at the Mayo Clinic is guiding future doctors and nurses down a path that not only puts them in a better position to treat patients, but also interact with them.

The Student Education Team (SET) is bringing students together with physicians to further improve the way they interact with patients on a daily basis. Originally launched at Mayo Clinic Health System’s Eau Claire, Wisconsin location around 2018, the program has now come to Austin.

Sarah Sistek

“A [nurse practitioner/physician assistant] or the doctor is responsible for the education of the student”, said Sarah Sistek, director of the SET Clinic. “It’s just learning how to be a provider. Ultimately, be in charge of the patient; just teaching these students how to care for patients.”

The SET clinic is part of the basic education of students already enrolled in medical institutions and is set up on a rotating basis. Often the student, who is paired with one of several medical professionals during the day, is the first to see a patient.

In Austin, there is a core group of four providers who share a passion for education. Each rotation requires up to four students.

What they learn during these rotations is used to enhance the medical education they are already receiving.

“They’ve had a lot of education in terms of going to school and learning how to take care of patients, but it might be one of their first exposures to working one-on-one with a patient,” Sistek said. “Some of them, it could be their last rotation. It really depends on where they are in their education.”

In a broad sense, the SET experience instructs students in how to interact with patients, but this exposure can be easily broken down into specific areas that are all part of the patient interaction.

“I think it teaches students all aspects of patient care,” Sistek said. “Certainly communicating with patients, learning disease processes, learning diagnosis, basic history-taking skills, exams, selection of diagnostic tests … things like that.”

A valuable part of the learning process belongs to those who do the teaching. Throughout the students’ rotation, they will have the opportunity to learn from all of the providers at Austin’s SET clinic. While everyone practices the same evidence-based medicine, providers may have different ways of conducting their interactions.

It’s a chance for knowledge that students may not necessarily have at this level.

“It gives them the opportunity to get a lot of exposure to different practice styles, which is helpful in making them a well-rounded provider,” Sistek said, adding that it’s a two-way street. “I really like how it works. Maybe I have an interesting experience with a student; so and so taught me this so that I can learn from the student as well. I think it’s been a really positive experience.”

Heather Talley, MD of Family Medicine

Heather Talley, MD Family Medicine, is one of the providers who helps guide students through the SET clinic. She has seen firsthand the advantage of team-based education for rotating students.

“We were working with students individually, so we would have them come in and rotate with individuals,” Talley said. “With the launch of SET, we’ve been able to centralize all the students and really increase the amount of education we’re providing. Breakfast chats, lunchtime chats—we’re able to get students to bounce ideas off each other and off the team.”

Talley also said the experience for patients has also been positive.

She said that while patients will eventually see a doctor, being able to talk to a student first is giving them more time to get information about what they came to the hospital for.

“These are neighbors in our community and they’re coming in with their health routine,” Talley said. “When they’re scheduled, they know they’re going to be with a provider after the student. They take extra time to be able to speak up and make sure their concerns are addressed. Really dig deep into what’s going on and be able to provide more education in the room and through the patient teaching students.”

Ellie Gertner is a physician assistant student and was on her second SET Clinic rotation in January.

Rita Moier, operations manager.

Gertner, who has wanted to practice medicine since high school, said the SET experience has had a profound impact on her education.

“They just have access to so many things that I think you might not get anywhere else,” Gertner said. “I really like SET as a rotation option. I have no other [opportunity] like this. Getting the opportunity to act as the provider and be the provider instead of following someone else’s schedule has really improved my skills and abilities.”

Gertner said that in addition to imparting her valuable medical knowledge, she has also influenced him personally.

“I think it builds your confidence and ability to be a provider,” she said. “I think if I went out into the world after just 12 months shadowing the provider, I wouldn’t feel as confident as I do now.”

Because SET is such a new program, it is difficult to know what the exact future may be and how far it may travel within the Mayo Clinic Health Systems network. Currently, Austin and Eau Claire are the only two locations that have SET clinics.

One thing that has become clear, however, is that its effects can be seen outside the established clinic.

“I think it serves well beyond the core students and faculty,” said Rita Moier, operations manager. “It’s a recruitment for other physicians or other nurse practitioners who have an interest in teaching, ‘I want to be a part of that education that Austin is doing. This is a practice I want to be a part of.’”

Gertner said she hopes other students will consider the opportunity.

“I wish more of my classmates would do it,” she said. “I hope that this type of program will be established at other Mayo Clinic locations. We hope that future students will have this opportunity.”

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