Brooke Granstrom is in the midst of her 4-month clinical preceptorship in the Eastern Washington town of Newport, population 2,140. As a MEDEX physician assistant student in her second year, she’s out of the classroom setting and under the guidance of Jennifer Eickstadt, PA-C, at her first clinical rotation.
“Working here at the Newport Health Center has been a great experience for me,” Brooke tells us. “I was really nervous the first couple of weeks, but Jennifer encouraged me to jump in and start seeing patients. She’s been a great teacher in all aspects.”
Brooke has equally high praise for the clinic at Newport Hospital & Health Services which services rural northeastern Washington and northern Idaho.
She’s been surprised at the amount of medical procedures performed in the clinic. “We did an excision of a skin lesion the other day in our procedure room and sewed the guy up,” Brooke tells us. “And it wasn’t a tiny lesion, but we are able to do it here in the office.”
Along with a lot of other women’s health care, these are needs that might have been referred out to a specialty in Spokane, but they can take care of it there in the office at Newport Health Center, which is great for the local community.
“It really is a teaching clinic,” Brooke states. Besides working with Jennifer Eickstadt, she’s been able to learn from other clinic providers as well, which allows her to experience different approaches to patient care.
After an entire year of didactic classroom learning with her cohorts in MEDEX Spokane Class 21, Brooke is finally getting hands-on experience with patients. It’s exciting for her to get back to patient care, although not every patient presents like a textbook case.
Through working with Jennifer, Brooke’s sharpening her skills in the process of diagnosing and treating patients as well as her medical decision-making abilities. The teamwork between Brooke and Jennifer is imperative to the learning process in the clinical year.
“Jennifer has been a great preceptor. It’s cool to interact with patients and put into practice everything we learned in the classroom instead of seeing things in a multiple-choice question format.”
Prior to her entry into the MEDEX Northwest physician assistant program, Brooke Granstrom worked as a medical assistant in a Utah orthopedic clinic and, before that, as an aide at a physical therapy clinic in Colorado.
Brooke has a background in athletics—she ski raced for the University of Colorado as well as the U.S. Ski Team—and noticed that a number of athletic trainers she worked with were leaving to attend PA school.
Up to that point, she had considered becoming an athletic trainer. “I really loved sports and enjoy medicine, so that seemed like a good fit,” she says.
But in talking with those departing athletic trainers, she learned about the physician assistant route. “I prepared to set myself up to pursue that as a next step.”
Brooke applied to five different schools. At the time, she was living in Utah when she got an interview from the school in Provo, followed by an invitation to interview with MEDEX.
For her MEDEX admissions interview, Brooke had to fly in to Spokane from Utah.
“I interviewed at MEDEX and it was definitely my top choice. I’m from the state of Washington and it was my chance to get back to the Pacific Northwest area.”
Jennifer Eickstadt has been a PA since 2010, and is an alumnus of MEDEX Spokane Class 12. She’s been at Newport Hospital & Health Services for three years. After graduation and prior to Newport, she worked as a PA for over five years in the rural community of Bonners Ferry, ID, about 60 miles northeast of Newport.
Before PA school she was a medical assistant for a small family practice in Spokane, WA.
“I worked with the same doctor for most of those 19 years,” Jennifer says. “He and I worked closely together and he taught me a substantial amount within family practice. After 19 years I thought I’m ready to do something else with my career. He was getting ready to retire about the time I got accepted into MEDEX, so it was a good transition.”
In 2007 Jennifer applied to MEDEX for admission into the 2008 cycle. It was her only application to a PA school.
“I had kids in middle school and high school, so it just wouldn’t work for me to be anywhere but the Spokane class,” she says.
Jennifer enjoys being an extension of the classroom for new MEDEX clinical year students like Brooke.
“You know, precepting is a little bit extra work,” Jennifer says. “But I feel like I have these years of knowledge and it’s fun to share. I’m always learning as well. Precepting forces me to be a continual learner, so I can share with my students. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a student myself, and I know how hard it is to find preceptors.”
Jennifer usually takes MEDEX students in their P1 phase, code for the fall start date of their 4-month family medicine preceptorship. She also takes students for shorter rotations from spring to summer.
Jennifer’s patient care responsibilities at Newport Hospital & Health Services are wide-ranging.
“We’re a family practice, so everything from babies to the elderly and everything in between,” she tells us. “I personally do a lot of women’s health, a lot of teenage adolescent medicine, and I also am the jail provider for the county. So, one day a week I get to go to the jail and see those patients.”
Every Tuesday morning Brooke accompanies Jennifer to the Pend Oreille County Corrections facility where they are the sole providers.
“There’s a lot of behavioral medicine we do there,” Jennifer says. “I would say 90% of what we do at the jail is mental health: anxiety, depression, remorse and a lot of drug withdrawal.”
For Brooke, the prospects of jail provided yet another opportunity to see rural medicine in a different setting. She also got to experience some of the unique challenges that accompany providing healthcare to this particular population.
“For me, it’s been a great experience to be a part of providing healthcare to this underserved population,” Brooke states. “I get the opportunity to see things there that I probably wouldn’t see in a clinic, such as people going through drug withdrawal.”
Through it all, Jennifer has seen great progress in her student.
“Brooke has been great,” Jennifer says. “She’s very bright, eager to jump in and help with everything, and, yeah, she’s been a really good student.”
“For me, doing my four-month family practice rotation at the beginning was a good fit because I have less clinical experience,” says Brooke. “It’s been good for me to stay in one spot so I can get my feet underneath me and start to feel some confidence before I have to change rotations every four weeks.”
Ahead for Brooke are six one-month rotations designed to give her a broad overview of specialty areas. Her next placement is in orthopedics.
“I’m looking forward to that one because orthopedics is part of my background,” Brooke says. “I think that’s where I tend to feel a little bit more comfortable than in other areas, so I’m excited for that. I’m hoping to do a rotation in dermatology as well. I’m also really excited to do a surgical rotation.”
We wonder what area of medicine Brooke might focus after graduation and national certification.
“When I was looking at PA school and thinking about clinical year, I was hoping that at this point I’d have a better idea of exactly what field I want to go into and where I wanted to land,” she says. “But the truth is that there’s just so much to learn in medicine that, for me, it’s going to take most of my clinical year to figure this out. And, of course, it all depends on job openings and opportunities.”