Daytheon Sturges Shares His “Why” For Becoming a PAEA Workshop Facilitator

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PAEA Workshops are an important part of professional development for many PA educators, especially those transitioning into new roles. What you might not realize is that the workshop experience is just as rewarding for the facilitators as it is for the attendees.

Since PAEA recently opened its application cycle for PAEA Workshop Facilitators, we asked experienced facilitators to share what it’s like to guide peers in their professional development. 

In this Q&A, Daytheon Sturges, assistant professor and associate program director of regional affairs, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at the University of Washington – MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant program and veteran PAEA Workshop facilitator, reflects on the ways serving as a workshop facilitator can enrich your career, provide meaningful connections, and kick-start your mentoring experience. Read our conversation with Daytheon below.

Why did you choose to become a facilitator?

After becoming a new faculty member, I went through the Clinical Coordinators 101 Workshop, and I appreciated the facilitators so much. It really spurred me on, and I thought, “One day, I would like to do this.” It feels like my opportunity to give back to an organization that has given so much to me, helped me grow as an educator, and offered me resources and great support. For me, this is giving back as an act of gratitude.

What should someone expect as a PAEA facilitator?

First time applicants can expect that there will be a learning curve but should know there will be people there to guide you. I like the way that PAEA slowly integrates you into the facilitator role. For your first go-around, you might not have as many assignments, but you might be helping or observing to learn from those who are more experienced. Those people are the ones who actually guide the conversation and the planning calls. It allows you room to grow. If there’s an element of fear, that’s normal, but you should know they’re not going to throw you into the lions’ den and say, “Good luck.” There is a slow uptake of skills. Then, once you’re there, you’re there, and it’s just a great experience. You’re networking while learning from your co-facilitators and from those you are instructing.

What were the best parts of your experience?

The interaction from the participants is the highlight to me – kind of like when you’re teaching your students. It’s fun seeing people have “ah-ha” moments, veering off the plan to explore a tangent. I also enjoy interacting with senior faculty who have been facilitating for a while in a welcome atmosphere to get your feet wet. Learning by doing really resonates with me.

Was there a time when the conversation went differently than planned, but turned into a meaningful moment?

A lot of times, the conversations go deeper than planned when we talk about the structure of different institutions or organizations. It’s always enlightening to hear how people interact with their organizations. As a group, we’re able to talk through questions like, “Am I valued, or am I just another cog in the wheel?” or “Do I have someone that actually listens to me, takes my ideas, and tries to help me form them to make change?” I enjoy those softer conversations that fall within the elements of social support or relationship because they tackle a lot of topics that can exacerbate organizational factors that lead to burnout. Medical education, in general, does not do well at addressing burnout. Programs often lack structure for formal interventions, so a lot of times it comes down to social support from small groups.

When people leave workshops, they often exchange information – they’re creating life-long bonds with their fellow attendees. I’m still in contact with some people from 2014.

How important is it to have relationships and mentors in PA education?

I think it’s absolutely paramount to have a mentor and to be a mentor. As with anything in life, we can’t do this on our own. Some people go at it alone, but it’s much more fun and enjoyable when you can have other people with you.

I have benefitted greatly from having mentors, and I benefit greatly from being a mentor. I like to say, “Once you get the tools and you take the elevator to the top, you should never forget to push the button to send it back down.” It just makes everything worthwhile.

I have a few mentees that I met as a facilitator. I think Workshop facilitation and mentorship can go hand in hand, especially if mentorship is important to you. PAEA Workshops give you an opportunity to meet those who might be in search or in need of a mentor, and you can offer your services. If you see someone that you think you have a connection with and needs mentorship, I would recommend offering it rather than waiting for someone to ask. That could change their whole life and their whole trajectory. It makes them feel good, too, like “Oh! Someone noticed me and picked me.”

Tell us about the importance of diversity in the facilitator pool.

Diversity — whether race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity, experience, career stage, or diversity of thought, just to name a few — is a number one tenant in my book. It makes for a more robust experience for both facilitators and attendees.

I always tell my students, “Patients are more than people sitting in the seat.” That also applies to those who attend these Workshops; they’re more than an educator sitting in the seat. They bring a lot of lived experiences and levels of expertise, and the way we tap into those is by having a diverse facilitator pool.

Interested in becoming a PAEA workshop facilitator? Click here to learn more and apply.