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Combined B.S. Health Sciences/M.S. Physician Assistant Studies

Checksheet

Mission

The mission is 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.

Learning Outcomes

Physician Assistant graduates will:

  • Elicit an accurate medical history including Chief Complaint, History of Present Illness, Past Medical History, Family History, Review of Systems, Social History and Sexual History in both a complete and directed format.
  •  Perform common clinical procedures.
  •  Define the important ethical issues involved with the medical care of patients and describe how these affect PA practice.
  •  Recognize when a problem is beyond the scope of the PA provider and refer the patient to her/his supervising physician, or recommend appropriate specialty consultation.
  •  Prudently recommend laboratory, radiology, cardiographic and other ancillary diagnostic studies appropriate to the history and physical findings. Graduates must list the common contraindications and complications of these tests. 
  •  Demonstrate competence in written, oral and electronic forms of communication. Approach patient encounters using language, body posture, facial expression, speech process and speech content that promote open communication and foster a trusting effective patient-provider relationship. 
  •  Perform a computer medical literature search and critically evaluate the medical literature in terms of its relevance to clinical practice.
  • Develop an appropriate treatment plan for common disorders that may include medications, surgery, counseling, therapeutic procedures, rehabilitative therapies or other therapeutic modalities.

Program Description

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who practices medicine with 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 wide 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 work in conjunction with a physician and have a wide array of responsibilities including taking medical histories, conducting physical examinations, ordering or performing lab and other diagnostic tests, synthesizing data to make a proper diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, performing health-related counseling, performing various procedures such as casting, suturing and assisting in surgery. PAs can prescribe medication in all states.

The Physician Assistant Studies program is a comprehensive academic experience that stresses the practical application of current medical theory. Most 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. The Physician Assistant Studies program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

The typical student in the Physician Assistant Studies program will spend approximately $3,000 on medical equipment, 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, graduation fees and pre-professional phase book costs. All of these costs, except book costs, are listed elsewhere in the University catalog.

While this is a full-time, day program, the clinical or practical portion may involve some night and weekend hours. Admission criteria, procedures and technical standards are listed in the Physician Assistant Studies Program Information Booklet available from the Office of Admissions and at www.PhilaU.edu.

Freshman Admission Option

This option is designed for students who have no or few college credits (less than 16 credit hours). It is designed as a five-year course of study and includes complete undergraduate and graduate degrees. The first six semesters (three years) make up the pre-professional phase and are designed to academically prepare students for PA training and provide a comprehensive general education. The pre-professional phase consists of medically related science and psychology prerequisite courses along with all of the components of the College Studies program. After successful completion of the pre-professional phase (which includes maintaining the required grade point averages of 3.0 cumulative and 3.0 science and core prerequisite, acquiring the required letters of reference, completing a personal essay and obtaining approval of the PA Program Admissions Committee), students are admitted to the professional phase. Students must complete all required courses in the pre-professional phase to enter the professional phase.

The professional phase is 25 months of continuous study and includes the didactic level that consists of three semesters of classroom and laboratory work in basic and applied medical science, and the clinical level that consists of six rotations and four preceptorships at a variety of clinical sites such as hospitals and medical offices. Students must complete all didactic-level courses before they can enter the clinical level. The first semester of the professional phase is composed of mandatory foundation courses. The remaining courses in the professional phase are graduate courses.

After successful completion of the fall semester of year four (the first professional-phase semester), students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and be eligible to participate in the May Commencement ceremony. Upon completion of the full five-year program, graduates will receive a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, will be eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, and will be able to participate in the Commencement ceremony.

Transfer Student Option

This option is designed for students with a substantial number of college credits (approximately 64) but who do not have a bachelor’s degree. This option includes an accelerated bachelor’s degree-completion program, and the complete professional-phase Physician Assistant Studies Program. Students wishing to enter the program in this option must meet two sets of prerequisite requirements prior to entrance into the program. The first is the PA-specific prerequisites that include science and psychology courses. The second consists of the College Studies prerequisites that are general education courses required for the bachelor’s degree. Both sets of requirements must be met before a student can gain entrance into the program. These prerequisites are listed in the Physician Assistant Studies Program Information Booklet available from the Office of Admissions and at www.PhilaU.edu.

Students admitted into this option typically spend three years at the University. The first year (two semesters) comprises the pre-professional phase that consists of advanced science and psychology courses and the remainder of the College Studies or general education program. The pre-professional phase may be shorter depending on the number of applicable transfer credits a student has, but must be at least one semester. After successful completion of the pre-professional phase, students will enter the professional phase, which is described above.

After successful completion of the fall semester of year two (the first professional-phase semester) students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and be eligible to participate in the May Commencement ceremony. Upon completion of the full three-year program (both the pre-professional and the professional phases), graduates will receive a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, will be eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant Studies National Certifying Examination and will be able to participate in the Commencement ceremony.

Clinical Education

Upon successful completion of the didactic level of the professional phase, the PA student proceeds into the clinical education level of the program. The PA student will spend 36 weeks in clinical rotations (six 6-week blocks) and another 24 weeks in preceptorships (four 6-week blocks) before completing the course of study for Physician Assistant Studies. These experiences most likely will involve night and weekend hours.

Clinical Rotations (6 credits/rotation)

The clinical rotations are 6-week blocks in the areas of 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 of continuing medical-education seminars.

Preceptorship IA, IB, IIA, IIB (6 credits/Preceptorship)

These clinical training experiences 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 done as two 6-week blocks in an ambulatory, primary-care setting such as an outpatient family practice, general practice or general internal medicine office or center.

The remaining preceptorship experiences include the Floating Medicine Block in which students do six additional weeks 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, correctional medicine, urology, orthopedic surgery, cardio­ thoracic surgery and others. Continuity of care and regular feedback from clinical faculty are the hallmarks of these experiences.


PA Program Technical 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, EKGs 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.