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Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.)

Program Director: Jesse Coale, MDIV, PA-C
Campus Location: Main Campus, Hayward Hall, Suite 224
Full-time, day program. Students admitted for entrance annually in July only.

Mission

To provide students with the foundation of knowledge, technical skills and critical thinking necessary to competently perform the functions of the physician assistant profession in an ethical, empathetic manner working with a licensed practicing physician. A secondary focus is to prepare students to provide comprehensive medical services to diverse underserved patient populations in inner-city and rural locations.

Graduate Outcomes

Graduates of the Physician Assistant Program will be expected to:

  1. Accurately elicit a medical history and perform an appropriate physical examination based on patient presentation.
  2. Formulate an appropriate differential diagnosis based on history and physical exam findings.
  3. Appropriately recommend and interpret common diagnostic studies based on history and physical exam findings.
  4. Diagnose and manage acute and chronic medical and psychological disorders based on clinical presentation and diagnostic testing results for patients across the lifespan.
  5. Develop and implement appropriate treatment plans for common disorders including medications, surgery, counseling, therapeutic procedures, rehabilitative therapies, or other therapeutic modalities.
  6. Perform common laboratory studies and clinical procedures.
  7. Screen for diseases, assess for risk factors of common disease, and initiate and recommend health promotion and disease prevention measures.
  8. Provide patient education and counseling for common medical and psychological illnesses, common medical procedures, therapeutic regimens, adherence, and health maintenance. 
  9. Recognize when a problem is beyond the scope of the PA provider and refer the patient to the supervising physician, appropriate specialists, and/or community resources.
  10. Effectively document medical information in a variety of formats.
  11. Demonstrate competence in written, oral and electronic forms of communication with patients, families, and other members of the health care team.
  12. Perform a medical literature search, critically evaluate the relevance of the medical literature, and apply evidence based medicine principles to clinical practice.
  13. Show sensitivity regarding the emotional, cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the patient, the patient’s condition, and the patient’s family.
  14. Conduct themselves in a professional courteous manner and with the highest ethical and legal standards expected of a health care professional and consistent with the role and responsibilities of a physician assistant.
  15. Continue to develop lifelong learning skills through ongoing self-reflection, active engagement and professional development.

The Profession

A physician assistant, or PA, is a qualified medical professional who practices medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs provide a wide variety of medical services traditionally performed by physicians. The concept for the profession originated in the early to mid-1960s as a way to enhance the provision of medical care to people residing in medically underserved areas. The care of the underserved remains an ongoing goal of the profession.

Physician assistants work in all 50 states, Guam and the District of Columbia in a range of medical settings including physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, emergency departments, military and Veterans Administration installations, nursing homes, industrial health centers and correctional institutions. They always work in conjunction with a physician and can have an array of responsibilities including medical history taking, physical examination, ordering or performing lab and other diagnostic tests, synthesizing data to make a proper diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, monitoring patient progress, providing health-related counseling and performing various procedures such as casting and suturing and assisting in surgery. PAs can prescribe medications in all states.

Program Description

The Philadelphia University Physician Assistant Studies program is part of the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts. It is a comprehensive academic experience that stresses the practical application of current medical theory. All of the program faculty members are actively practicing health care providers with a great depth of knowledge and experience. Students are exposed to the clinical environment throughout their education with patient contact even during the classroom or didactic portion of the program.

Program-Specific Costs

The typical student in the Physician Assistant Studies program will spend approximately $3,000 on medical equipment, point-of-care equipment (such as a smartphone), books, malpractice liability insurance and other program-related fees for both professional phase years combined. This does not include tuition, housing, food, living expenses, travel costs, health center fees and graduation fees. All of these costs are listed elsewhere in the catalog.

The Physician Assistant Studies program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). This program is available full time, day only. The clinical or practical portion will involve some night and weekend hours.

PA Program Technical and Professional Standards 

Applicants are selected based on the Admissions Committee's assessment of their ability to successfully complete the training and competently function in the role of the profession as defined by: the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc., as published in the Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education; the State of Pennsylvania as published in the Medical Practice Act; and the Program. Successful matriculation necessitates that all candidates must have the physical, emotional and intellectual attributes necessary for success in this type of education.

Technical, Academic and Professional Standards

For admission to the program candidates must:

  • Have the academic ability to learn a large volume of technically detailed information and be able to synthesize and use this data to solve complex clinical problems. This information must be acquired in a short and intense period of study, which requires well-developed study skills and a high level of motivation, and may require considerable personal and financial sacrifice.
  • Possess the emotional maturity and stability to approach highly stressful human situations in a calm and rational manner.
  • Have the ability to effectively communicate with ill patients from a wide diversity of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in an empathetic and sensitive fashion.
  • Have well-developed oral and written communication skills.
  • Have comfort with the role of a dependent practitioner operating under the supervision of a licensed physician, while simultaneously feeling comfortable with the large amount of responsibility that goes along with the delivery of patient care in sometimes remote locations. Display strong ethical integrity consistent with working as a health care professional. Have sufficient physical abilities in the areas of sensory function (vision, hearing and touch sensation), hand-eye coordination, and neurologic and muscular coordination and control to competently perform the technical activities that are a critical part of the program and profession, including:
    • Physical examinations, which include visual inspection, listening to heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope, examination by touch to gather information such as skin temperature and texture, and other maneuvers.
    • Performance and interpretation of diagnostic studies such as blood tests, EKG's, and X-rays.
    • Surgical assisting, which can involve activities such as control of bleeding and suturing (wound closure by placing stitches).
    • Performing common procedures such as applying casts, suturing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), venipuncture (placing needle into a vein to collect a blood sample) and starting an intravenous access line. 

Curriculum

The program is 25 months of continuous study and includes the didactic level consisting of three semesters of classroom and laboratory work in basic and applied medical science, and the clinical level consisting of six rotations and four preceptorships (for a total of 10 clinical experiences) at a variety of clinical sites such as hospitals and medical offices. The first semester of the didactic level begins in mid-July of each year. Students must complete all didactic-level courses before they can enter the clinical level.

Overview of Clinical Training

Upon successful completion of the didactic-level courses, the PA student proceeds into the clinical-education level of the program. The PA student will spend approximately 12 months in clinical rotations and preceptorships. This is divided into 10 five- or six-week blocks.

Clinical Rotations and Preceptorships (6 credits each)

The required clinical rotations are five- or six-week blocks in the areas of internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry/mental health, women’s health and emergency medicine and are designed to expose the PA student to patient care in a variety of settings. The student is directly involved with the evaluation and management of patients to the extent that the clinical preceptor or supervisor is comfortable with the level of knowledge and skills of the PA student. Typically, the student spends at least 40 hours per week in the clinical setting, attending to patients and partaking in continuing medical-education seminars.

Preceptorships are designed to enhance the PA student’s knowledge, technical skills, clinical judgment and confidence in the evaluation and management of common medical problems. One of these must be completed as a 10-week (two five-week blocks) experience in an ambulatory, primary care setting such as an outpatient family practice office or center.

The remaining preceptorship experiences include the Floating Medicine Block in a medically related specialty such as family, internal or geriatric medicine, and the clinical elective. During the elective, students can spend more time in one of their rotation specialties or gain experience in other settings such as neonatology, HIV, cardiology, urology, orthopedic surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and others. The student should expect to be working a full-time schedule.  

Students must have access to a personal computer. Students will be given an Internet account from the University and access to the University academic computing labs.

Prerequisite Course Requirements

Courses Credits
Chemistry I 
4
Chemistry II or Organic Chemistry
4
Biology I 4
Biology II or Genetics 4
Anatomy and Physiology I or Anatomy 4
Anatomy and Physiology II or Physiology 4
Microbiology 3 or 4
Introduction to Psychology
3
English Composition 3
One college-level math or statistics course 3
200 hours of patient care or human service experience
Medical Terminology 
1

Note: Additional psychology and chemistry courses and a genetics course are strongly advised and highly desirable.

Due to changes in science and the importance of science prerequisites as a basis for the study of PA curriculum, all science courses should be no more than seven years old. A waiver of this limit can be given to individuals who have worked in a scientific field on a regular basis, or who have completed several current higher-level science courses. Candidates must write a letter to the PA Program Admissions Committee requesting this waiver of the seven-year limit. 

Core Curriculum

Year One

Summer Semester

PASF507GR Advanced Anatomy (Part A) 
2

Fall Semester

PASF507GR Advanced Anatomy (Part B) 3
PASF513GR Medical Physiology and Pathophysiology 3
PASF511GR Applied Behavioral Science 3
PASF517GR Medical History and Physical Diagnosis
5
PASF510GR Medical and Professional Ethics 2
PASF521GR Medical Genetics, Immunology and Microbiology 2

Credit Hours: 20 

(includes anatomy parts A and B)

Spring Semester

PAS611 Clinical Medicine
8
PAS612 Clinical Reasoning 2
PAS613 Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics
4
PAS614 Emergency Medicine 3
PAS615 Laboratory Medicine 2

Credit Hours: 19

Summer 1 Semester

PAS621 Clinical Disciplines Overview (Surgery, Pediatrics, OB/GYN)
6
PAS622 Pharmacotherapeutics Seminar 
1
PAS623 Advanced Radiology/ECG Seminar
1
PAS624 Biomedical Literature and Research 3

Summer 2 Semester

  1 Clinical Rotation
6

Credit Hours: 17

Year Two

Fall, Spring, Summer 1, and Summer 2 Semesters

3 Clinical Rotations
(6 credits each)
18
4 Preceptorships
24
Primary Care Selective 6
Elective 6
Master’s Comprehensive Experience** 2
Medical Genetics, Immunology and Microbiology 2
PAS-771
Master’s Comprehensive Experience

Credit Hours: 57


Clinical Rotations*

PAS741  Internal Medicine Rotation
PAS742 Pediatrics Rotation
PAS743 Women’s Health Rotation
PAS744 Psychiatry/ Mental Health Rotation
PAS745 Surgery Rotation
PAS746
Emergency Medicine Rotation

Clinical Preceptorships

PAS759 
Preceptorship IA: Primary Care 1
PAS760 Preceptorship IB: Primary Care 2
PAS763 Preceptorship IIA: Primary Care Selective
PAS764 Preceptorship IIB: Elective

TOTAL CREDIT HOURS: 113 Credits

All rotations/Preceptorships may be divided into A & B courses dependent on the academic calendar.  

Application Procedure

Philadelphia University is participating in the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). To apply for admission into the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies program at Philadelphia University, please visit the CASPA website at www.caspaonline.org. Application for admission will be accepted only through the CASPA service. Please refer to the Philadelphia University CASPA portal for specific information related to application deadlines.

You must request that official copies of your transcripts be sent directly to CASPA by the institution(s) attended. Student copies of transcripts or copies sent to CASPA directly by the applicant are not acceptable. Letters of reference should also be sent directly to CASPA from the person making the reference. Your GRE scores, however, should be sent directly to Philadelphia University, Office of Graduate Admissions by Educational Testing Services. Philadelphia University’s reporting code is #2666.

Once admitted, the student must provide Philadelphia University with an original transcript of their bachelor’s degree education. This is necessary to grant the M.S. degree, as the CASPA service maintains the original transcripts.

Admission Requirements

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant—Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education: “The role of the physician assistant demands intelligence, sound judgment, intellectual honesty, appropriate interpersonal skills, and the capacity to react to emergencies in a calm and reasoned manner. An attitude of respect for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in communicating with patients, and a commitment to the patient’s welfare are essential attributes of the graduate PA.”

Admission to the Physician Assistant Studies program is extremely competitive. Applicants are selected based on a committee’s assessment of their ability to successfully complete the training and competently function in the role of the profession as defined by the ARC-PA as printed in the Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (as published in the Medical Practice Act), and the guidelines of the PA Studies Program. Candidates must have the physical, emotional and intellectual attributes necessary for success in this type of training.

Selection Criteria

Students in the PA program will be selected from candidates submitting complete applications with all required supporting material to the Central Application Service of Physician Assistants (CASPA) at www.caspaonline.org. The Physician Assistant Admissions Committee uses a variety of criteria to make admission decisions.  

These can include:

  • Academic experience including: a) previous college curriculum difficulty, institution, cumulative grades, science course grades and graduate study, b) academic patterns such as most recent academic performance, credit load, withdrawals and incomplete courses. The Physician Assistant Studies Program requires a cumulative total GPA of 3.25 and a science-only GPA of 3.25 for admission; both criteria must be met to be considered for admission. Once admitted, the graduate school requires the maintenance of an overall GPA of 3.00.
  • Health care or human service experience with consideration to type and duration. This can include both paid and volunteer experience.
  • A personal essay that examines written communication skills, knowledge of the PA profession and motivation for the profession.
  • Three letters of reference submitted through CASPA that examine the applicant’s abilities, communication skills, motivation, interpersonal skills and emotional maturity from those familiar with your professional or academic abilities, such as a professor or supervisor.
  • The amount of prerequisite coursework the applicant has left to complete, along with the applicant’s plan for completion. Students who have not completed all prerequisites prior to application can be admitted on a “conditional basis.”
  • Personal interview—The most qualified applicants from the general applicant pool may be invited to come to the University for a personal interview. This interview attempts to ascertain an applicant’s knowledge of the profession, motivation for pursuing a PA career, interpersonal and oral communication skills, compassion, problem-solving abilities, preparation for the educational experience, and dedication to providing care to the underserved.
  • Diversity—The PA program believes that enrollment of students with a wide diversity of cultural, geographic, academic and occupational backgrounds enriches the learning experience and helps in sensitizing PA students to unique characteristics of diverse patient populations with whom they will work as health care providers.