Students must possess aptitude, ability, and skills in the following five (5) areas:
- Sensory and motor coordination and function
- Conceptualization, integration and quantitation
- Behavioral and social skills, abilities, and aptitudes
The functions described below are critically important and must be autonomously performed by the student. It should be understood that these are standards for minimum competence in the program:
Students must be able to observe demonstrations and conduct experiments in the basic sciences including, but not limited to, chemical, biological, anatomic and physiologic sciences. Students must be able to observe details through a microscope, and observe demonstrations in the classroom, including films, projected overheads, slides or other forms of visual presentation.
Students must be able to accurately observe a patient near and at a distance, noting nonverbal, as well as verbal signs. Specific vision-related criteria include, but are not limited to, detecting and identifying changes in color of fluids, skin, culture media, visualizing and discriminating findings on x-rays and other imaging tests, and reading written and illustrated materials. Students must be able to observe and differentiate changes in body movement, observe anatomic structures, discriminate among numbers and patterns associated with diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms and competently use diagnostic instruments such as an otoscope, ophthalmoscope and microscope.
Students must be able to relate effectively to patients while conveying compassion and empathy. They must be able to clearly communicate with patients in order to elicit information, accurately describe changes in mood, activity and posture of patients, and understand verbal as well as nonverbal communication.
Communication includes not only speech, but also reading and writing. Physician Assistant education presents exceptional challenges in the volume and breadth of reading required to master subject areas and impart the information to others. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively, and efficiently in oral and written English in the classroom and later with all members of the health care team. Specific requirements include, but are not limited to the following
- Students must be able to rapidly and clearly communicate with the medical staff on rounds or elsewhere,
- Students must be able to elicit an accurate history from patients, and communicate complex findings in appropriate terms to patients and the various members of the health care team.
- Students must learn to recognize and promptly respond to emotional cues, such as sadness and agitation.
- Students must be able to accurately and legibly record observations and plans in legal documents, such as the patient record.
- Students must be able to prepare and communicate concise, complete summaries of both limited patient encounters and complex, prolonged encounters, including hospitalizations.
- Students must be able to complete forms in a timely fashion, and according to directions.
Sensory and Motor Coordination or Function:
Students must possess sufficient sensory and motor function to perform physical examinations using inspection, palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. This requires intact sensory abilities, coordination to manipulate patients, and skills, function, and control required to perform physical maneuvers and to utilize and operate diagnostic instruments.
Students must be able to evaluate various components of the voice, such as pitch, intensity, and timbre. They must also be able to accurately differentiate percussive notes and auscultatory findings, including but not limited to, heart, lung, and abdominal sounds. Students must be able to accurately discern normal and abnormal findings, using instruments including, but not limited to, tuning forks, stethoscopes, and sphygmomanometers.
Students should be able to execute physical movements needed to provide general care and emergency treatments to patients. The student, therefore, must be able to respond promptly to emergencies within the hospital or practice setting, and must not hinder the ability of his/her co-workers to provide prompt care. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of a physician assistant include arriving quickly when called and assisting in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), administering intravenous medications, applying pressure to arrest bleeding, maintaining an airway, suturing wounds, and assisting with obstetrical maneuvers. As further illustration, CPR may require moving an adult patient, applying considerable chest pressure over a prolonged period of time, delivering artificial respiration and calling for help.
Students should be able to learn to perform basic laboratory tests such as wet mount, urinalysis, gram stain, etc., and diagnostic/therapeutic procedures such as venipuncture or placement of catheters and tubes. The administration of intravenous medications requires a certain level of dexterity, sensation, and visual acuity. Students must be able to measure angles and diameters of various body structures using a tape measure or other devices to measure blood pressure, respiration and pulse, and interpret graphs describing biologic relationships. Clinical rotations require the ability to transport oneself to a variety of settings in a timely manner.
Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities
Problem solving is a critical skill demanded of physician assistants, and requires rapid intellectual function, especially in emergency situations. These intellectual functions include numerical recognition, measurement, calculations, reasoning analysis, judgment, and synthesis. Students must be able to identify significant findings in the patient’s history, physical examination and laboratory data, provide a reasoned explanation for likely diagnoses, and choose appropriate medications and therapy.
It is essential the student is able to incorporate new information, from many sources, toward the formulation of a diagnosis and plan. Good judgment in patient assessment and diagnostic/therapeutic planning is also essential. When appropriate, students must be able to identify and communicate the extent of their knowledge to others.
Behavioral and Social Attributes:
Students must possess the emotional health required for full use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities associated with the diagnosis and care of patients and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships in diagnosis and care of patients. Empathy, integrity, honesty, concern for others, good interpersonal skills, interest in people, and motivation are all required personal qualities. Students must be able to monitor and react appropriately to their own emotional needs. For example, students need to maintain balanced demeanor and good organization in the face of long hours, fatigued colleagues, and dissatisfied patients.
Students must be able to develop appropriate professional relationships with their colleagues and patients, provide comfort and reassurance to patients and protect patient confidentiality. Students must possess the endurance to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. At times students may be required to participate in clinical rotations for extended periods of time or with rotating schedules. Students must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the practice of medicine. Students are expected to accept suggestions and criticisms and, if necessary, to respond by modifying their behavior.