|“PAs are trained similar to a medical student. We’re meant to work as a team with the physician to improve the quality of patient care.”
-Kayla Pipkins, Pearcy, AR
Generally, most PA educational programs are 24 to 30 months in length depending on the curriculum and the degree offered. The first half of the curriculum or schooling is spent in the classroom with some clinical experience with patients. The standard courses that the students are required to complete includes anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, physical examination skills and history taking, clinical medicine, labs and diagnostic testing, ethics, emergency medicine. Every PA Program will have the basic courses and then will incorporate courses specific to the program curricula.
During the second half of the curriculum, the students spend at least 12 months on clinical rotations with precepting (student supervising) physicians and physician assistants. Each clinical rotation is generally 4 weeks to 8 weeks in length in required areas like family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine, women’s health. Again, each program may have additional clinical rotation experiences depending upon the mission and goals of the program. The students are actively seeing patients and working with a physician during the clinical rotations. Depending on the type of rotation, the student may evaluating patients in a clinic or emergency room, making rounds at a hospital, assisting in surgery, and taking call in conjunction with the physician.
Students generally graduate with a master’s level degree.
Students who are interested in physician assistant school and apply must complete numerous pre-requisite courses and other requirements to be accepted and enroll in a PA educational program. Standard required courses include anatomy, physiology, biology, microbiology, chemistry, and psychology. Some programs may also require courses like organic chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, physics, medical terminology, statistics, genetics, abnormal psychology, or developmental psychology.
Each program’s requirements are different but may include a bachelor’s degree, required grade point average (GPA) for cumulative and science courses, narratives, letters of recommendation, patient care experience, shadowing experience, Graduate Record Examination (GRE), community service experience, leadership experience and an interview.