Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.)
Program Director: Jesse Coale, DMin, PA-C, DFAAPA
- Philadelphia University—Main Campus, Hayward Hall, Suite 224
- New Jersey Campus, The Carnegie Center, Atlantic City, NJ
Full-time, day program. Students admitted for entrance annually in July only.
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.
Graduates of the physician assistant program will be expected to:
- Accurately elicit a medical history and perform an appropriate physical examination based on patient presentation.
- Formulate an appropriate differential diagnosis based on history and physical exam findings.
- Appropriately recommend and interpret common diagnostic studies based on history and physical exam findings.
- Diagnose and manage acute and chronic medical and psychological disorders based on clinical presentation and diagnostic testing results for patients across the lifespan.
- Develop and implement appropriate treatment plans for common disorders including medications, surgery, counseling, therapeutic procedures, rehabilitative therapies, or other therapeutic modalities.
- Perform common laboratory studies and clinical procedures.
- Screen for diseases, assess for risk factors of common disease, and initiate and recommend health promotion and disease prevention measures.
- Provide patient education and counseling for common medical and psychological illnesses, common medical procedures, therapeutic regimens, adherence, and health maintenance.
- 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.
- Effectively document medical information in a variety of formats.
- Demonstrate competence in written, oral and electronic forms of communication with patients, families, and other members of the health care team.
- Perform a medical literature search, critically evaluate the relevance of the medical literature, and apply evidence based medicine principles to clinical practice.
- Show sensitivity regarding the emotional, cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the patient, the patient’s condition, and the patient’s family.
- 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.
- Continue to develop lifelong learning skills through ongoing self-reflection, active engagement and professional development.
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, 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.
The Philadelphia University physician assistant studies program is part of the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts. It offers 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 (didactic) portion of the program.
The typical student in the physician assistant studies program will spend approximately $7,500 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 and holidays.
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 in the English language.
- 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 or male and female patients, 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.
The program is 25 months of continuous study and includes the didactic level consisting of four semesters of classroom and laboratory work in basic and applied medical science, and the clinical level consisting of ten rotations 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. This is divided into 10 five-week blocks.
Clinical Rotations (6 credits each)
The required clinical rotations are five-week blocks in the areas of primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, behavioral 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 36-60 hours per week in the clinical setting, attending to patients and partaking in continuing medical-education seminars.
The remaining clinical experiences include the Medical/Surgical Selective, 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 and have access to a car to provide transportation to and from clinical sites.
Students must have access to a laptop computer that meets the specifications for the program’s testing software. Students will be given an Internet account from the University and access to the University academic computing labs.
Prerequisite Course Requirements
- Chemistry I (4 credits)
- Chemistry II or Organic Chemistry(4 credits)
- Biology I (4 credits)
- Biology II or Genetics (4 credits)
- Anatomy and Physiology I or Anatomy (4 credits)
- Anatomy and Physiology II or Physiology (4 credits)
- Microbiology (3-4 credits)
- Introduction to Psychology (3 credits)
- English Composition (3 credits)
- One college-level math or statistics course (3 credits)
- 200 hours of direct patient contact
- Medical Terminology (1 credit)
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 10 years old. A waiver of this limit may be requested by individuals who have worked in a scientific field on a regular basis, or who have completed several current higher-level science courses. Candidates must request a waiver in writing from the Program Admissions Committee.
- PASF-507GR Advanced Anatomy A (2 credits)
- PASF-507GR Advanced Anatomy B (3 credits)
- PASF-510GR Medical and Professional Ethics (2 credits)
- PASF-513GR Medical Physiology and Pathophysiology (3 credits)
- PASF-511GR Applied Behavioral Science (3 credits)
- PASF-517GR Medical History and Physical Diagnosis (5 credits)
- PASF-518GR Evidence-Based Medicine (2 credits)
- PASF-521GR Medical Genetics, Immunology and Microbiology (2 credits)
(includes anatomy parts A and B)
- PAS-605 Clinical Correlations of Public Health (1 credit)
- PAS-611 Clinical Medicine (8 credits)
- PAS-612 Clinical Reasoning (2.5 credits)
- PAS-613 Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics (4 credits)
- PAS-614 Emergency Medicine (3 credits)
- PAS-615 Diagnostics Medicine (2 credits)
Summer 1 Semester
- PAS 603 Advanced Physical Assessment (0.5 credit)
- PAS-621 Clinical Disciplines Overview (Surgery, Pediatrics, OB/GYN) (6 credits)
- PAS-622 Pharmacotherapeutics Seminar (1 credit)
- PAS-623 Advanced Diagnostics Seminar (1 credit)
Summer 2 Semester
- Clinical Rotation (6 credits)
Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer 1, and Summer 2 Semesters
- 7 Clinical Rotations (6 credits each, 42 total)
- Medical/Surgical Selective (6 credits)
- Elective (6 credits)
- PAS-771 Master’s Comprehensive Experience** (2 credits)
- Clinical Rotations*
- PAS-742 Pediatrics Rotation
- PAS-743 Women’s Health Rotation
- PAS-744 Behavioral Health Rotation
- PAS-745 Surgery Rotation
- PAS-746 Emergency Medicine Rotation
- PAS-759 Primary Care 1 Rotation
- PAS-760 Primary Care 2 Rotation
- PAS-763 Medical/Surgical Selective Rotation
- PAS-764 Elective Rotation
*All rotations may be divided into A and B courses dependent on the academic calendar.
Philadelphia University participates 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.
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.
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.
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 GPA of 3.25 for admission; both criteria must be met to be considered for admission.
- Health care or human service experience with consideration to type and duration. This can include both paid and volunteer experience. The program requires a minimum of 200 hours of direct patient contact. Shadowing is not considered as direct patient contact.
- 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.
In order to matriculate into the program students must:
- Submit official transcripts showing completion of a bachelor’s degree.
- Meet our technical standards or have written approval from the PA Program for accommodations.
- Successfully complete a criminal background check.
- Successfully pass a child abuse clearance.
- Pass drug abuse screening tests.
- Meet the CDC and Philadelphia University’s requirements for vaccination and tuberculosis screening.
- Cumulative GPA: calculated average grade of all semesters of the PA Program starting with the first Summer II semester of the year that the student entered the professional phase of the Studies Program through the conclusion of the Program.
- Semester GPAs: calculated average of all course grades that are included in any semester that has a minimum of 8 credits.
- Courses: All PAS and PASF courses, including rotations.
- Didactic: All PAS 400, PASF 500, and PAS 600 level courses.
- Clinical: All PAS 700 level courses.
The following is a list of GPA equivalents of letter grades and relevant abbreviations:
The following is the program grading scale:
It is important to note that while a grade of “C” is officially passing, all grades below a “B” are considered marginal in the Graduate School because of the 3.000 cumulative GPA requirement.
Criteria to be in Good Standing in the PA Studies Program
- Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.000 (unrounded).
- Students must obtain all semester GPAs of at least 3.000 (unrounded) during each semester.
- Students must receive a grade of “B-” or above or, if applicable, “CR” in all courses and clinical rotations.
- Students must meet with their academic advisor at least one time per semester, or more regularly if requested.
- Students must pass all end of rotation (EOR) exams with a grade 60% or greater.
- Students must pass all clinical final preceptor evaluations with a grade of 70% or greater on both parts and receive satisfactory written and verbal feedback from clinical preceptors.
- Students must pass all parts of the end-of-program Summary Testing including the written comprehensive, clinical skills proficiency and OSCE within 2 attempts.
- Students must fully comply with all University and Program Policies and Procedures, including but not limited to the University Community Standards, and the Standards of Conduct as defined this handbook.
- Students must pass all background checks and drug screens.
- Students returning to good standing from probation must comply with all criteria outlined in their probation letter and/or learning contract in the specified time frame.
Criteria for placement on PA Studies Program Probation:
- Students who obtain a cumulative GPA below a 3.000 (unrounded).
Students must complete all didactic level work with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or they will not be permitted to progress to the clinical level.
- Students who obtain a semester GPA below a 3.000 (unrounded).
- Students who receive a grade of “C” or “C+” in one didactic course in the Program.
A grade below “C” is criteria for dismissal.
- Students who receive a grade below “B-” on one clinical rotation.
If a student obtains below a “C” this rotation must be repeated and a student must obtain a grade of “B” or better. Repetition of a rotation will delay graduation.
- Students failing 1 post rotation exam with a grade below 60% while on clinical rotations.
- Students who fail to obtain a grade of 70% or better on each part of a single final preceptor evaluation while on clinical rotations.
- Students who fail a graded site visit.
- Students who fail any part of the end-of-program Summary Testing 2 times.
These students will have a special remediation contract developed to assist them in passing these exams on the 3rd and last attempt. This will delay graduation.
- Students who display unprofessional behavior and/or conduct as outlined in this manual, the Clinical Year Handbook, or the University Code of Conduct.
Students on academic probation will be required to improve their academic performance during their next semester (unless another time frame is specified in their probation letter) in order to be removed from academic probation. Students will receive a probation letter from the PA Studies Program Academic and Professional Standards Review Committee, which will outline remedial procedures, expectations, and a schedule for correction of the identified deficiencies. If these deficiencies are corrected in a satisfactory manner in the appropriate time frame students will be removed from academic probation. If a student is placed on probation for obtaining a course grade of “C+” or “C” they will only be considered to be on probation for the subsequent semester for purposes of dismissal. Students who fail to correct the identified deficiencies will meet criteria for dismissal (see below).
Criteria for Dismissal from the PA Studies Program:
- If the student is placed on probation and remains on probation at the end of the following semester, the student will be dismissed from the Program.
- In addition, students whose academic record includes one or any combination of the following will be dismissed from the University:
- Students who refuse to sign or comply with the remediation plan/contract developed by the Academic and Professional Standards Review Committee.
- Students who fail to correct deficiencies outlined in their probation letter/contract.
This includes, but is not limited to, failure to repeat specified courses in which a grade below “B-“ was obtained, failure to gain a grade of “B” on in a repeated course, or failure to correct behavior as stipulated in the student’s probation notice.
- Students who obtain a cumulative GPA below 3.0 for any two terms.
These terms do not have to be sequential.
- Students who are placed on probation for any three terms, including, but not limited to students who have 3 semester GPAs that do not meet the 3.000 minimum.
These do not have be sequential. Academic or professional probation both apply.
- Students who obtain a grade below “B-“ in two or more courses or rotations.
- Students who receive a grade below “C”, including “W” or “NC”, in any didactic course.
Withdrawal from a course for medical or personal reasons, and pre-approved by the Academic and Professional Standards Review Committee, may not lead to dismissal. An approved withdrawn course must be repeated to progress in the Program. Repetition of a course will delay graduation.
- Students receiving 2 or more grades below “C”, including “W”, in more than one clinical rotation, or failure to gain a grade of “B” on a repeated rotation.
Withdrawal from a course or rotation for medical or personal reasons, and pre-approved by the Academic and Professional Standards Review Committee, may not lead to dismissal. An approved withdrawn rotation must be repeated, which will delay graduation.
- Students who fail 2 clinical post rotation exams with a grade below 60%.
- Students who fail to obtain a grade of 70% or better on each part of 2 different final preceptor evaluations while on clinical rotations.
- Students who fail any part of the Summary Testing 3 times.
- Unprofessional behavior and/or conduct, including, but not limited to:
- Students who display of any behavior which may present a potential risk to the health of the student, their classmates, the faculty, clinical colleagues, or patients.
- Students who are identified by preceptors via verbal or written reports, indicating that they are not adhering to site regulations, site schedule, ethical standards of conduct, limitations of student role, or that the student is not progressing academically or not demonstrating proficiency to a level where it may jeopardize patient safety.
- Students who fail to report significant changes in their health that may affect patient care to the Program within 48 hours.
- Students who fail to comply with required background checks including fingerprinting, drug and/or alcohol screening, or students who have misrepresented themselves to the Program on application.
- Students who fail to notify the Program of a criminal charge or arrest within 72 hours.
- Students with positive drug and/or alcohol screening results.
- Failure to communicate with the Program after taking a leave of absence for >365 days.
Students will receive written notification of academic dismissal and may appeal by submitting a written request for reinstatement to the PA Program Director. The petition should include:
1. An explanation of the poor academic performance that led to the dismissal, i.e. insufficient credits earned and/or low GPA.
2. An explanation of whether the student worked with PA Program faculty, sought tutoring assistance or accessed other support services to address academic performance.
3. Documentation concerning any mitigating circumstances that may have contributed to poor performance. This includes but is not limited to medical or psychological documentation.
4. A plan for preventing recurrence of these academic difficulties and for raising credits and/or the GPA above the minimum standard for continued enrollment.
5. Letters of support from professors or other support staff (optional).
For students who matriculate from the B.S. to M.S. Program only
Students in the 5-Year Combined BS/MS Studies Program dismissed during the 1st Fall semester may complete the requirements for the BS in Health Sciences by completing at least 121 credits of the curriculum, but may NOT complete the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies Program and are NOT eligible to sit for the NCCPA Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination or for Physician Assistant licensure.
Students dismissed from the Professional Phase of the PA Studies Program for failing a course or failing to meet GPA standards may reapply through CASPA and may be readmitted to the Program in a subsequent academic year. Readmission is not guaranteed, and is based on the Admissions Committee’s evaluation of the student’s academic record, and their assessment of student’s ability to successfully complete the training. Students readmitted to the Program would most likely be required to take all, or most, of the courses again. Students dismissed for conduct violations or failing two or more courses will not be readmitted to the Program under ordinary circumstances. In very unusual circumstances, students dismissed for these issues would be considered for readmission. These students must notify the PA Studies Program Director prior to application, and then reapply to the Office of Admissions following the usual admission procedures (CASPA). All dismissal appeals must be in writing and submitted within ten days of receiving their dismissal letter.
Students dismissed from the PA Studies Program are not eligible to sit for the NCCPA Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, or for PA certification or licensure.
Graduation Requirements for the PA Program:
- Students must complete the entire Professional Phase within 4 academic years.
- Students must successfully complete and pass all required courses, rotations, and seminars.
- Students must successfully complete and pass the PA Master’s Comprehensive Experience, including the Master’s Project, and all components of Summary Testing.
- Students must have a minimum 3.000 graduate cumulative grade point average.
- Students must have corrected all deficiencies as outlined in their academic probation notices within the specified time period.
- Students must have no more than one graduate course grades below a “B-”.
- Students must have no grades below a “C”.
- Students must complete the Application for Graduation on Webadvisor and the Precertification Form for Graduation with their advisor or program representative prior to the semester in which they plan to graduate.
- Students must have no outstanding financial obligations to the University.
Students will be billed for graduation fees and must also pay these fees in order to gain a diploma.
- Students must have complied with all procedures, and meet all requirements, of the University as defined in the Student Handbook and Catalog.
NOTE: Students in the Physician Assistant Studies Program must comply with all Philadelphia University academic standing and probation policies delineated in the Philadelphia University: Student Handbook, University Catalog and Graduate Studies Catalog.
Upon successful completion of the professional phase, students will receive their master’s degree in physician assistant studies, and are eligible to sit for the PANCE examination.
The Program Completion Ceremony, at which time students will receive their certificates, is historically held on the second or third Friday of August at the conclusion of the 25 month program.