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Physician Assistant Student Handbook

The Physician Assistant Program student handbook appears below.

If you need any information in either document in another format, please contact the PA program at psupaprogram@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

Each student will receive a bound copy of the Student Handbook for reference throughout their education experience at Penn State College of Medicine. Students must sign the “Acknowledgement for Receipt and Review” found on the last page of their bound handbooks and return it to the program.

To view forms, please see this handbook on the policy portal (Penn State Health ePass login required).

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PA Program Overview and Objectives

Mission Statement Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program’s mission is to prepare graduates to be academically, clinically, professionally, and culturally competent Physician Assistants who are devoted to serving patients in their communities through the application of clinical reasoning, critical thinking, and evidence-based practice to deliver compassionate and comprehensive care.

Vision Statement Expand answer

The vision of the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program is to prepare motivated and academically qualified students from diverse backgrounds for certification and licensure as competent Physician Assistants that will improve healthcare delivery through education, direct patient care, and community outreach.

Core Values Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program’s core values are:

  • Respect:
    • Embrace diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives
    • Active listening and attentiveness
    • Compassion, thoughtfulness, consideration, and kindness
  • Integrity:
    • Honesty, consistency, and fairness
    • Adherence to moral and ethical principles
  • Teamwork:
    • Commitment to collaboration across interdisciplinary teams
    • Knowledge sharing
    • Accountability and trust
  • Excellence:
    • Alignment of personal performance to our mission, vision, values, and goals
    • Set personal goals for professional development
    • Commitment to promoting positive change
Program Accreditation Expand answer

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Penn State University College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Penn State University College of Medicine. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2027. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

Goals Expand answer
  • To enroll an academically qualified, diverse student body with special consideration for those underrepresented in medicine, first generation in college, veteran/active duty military personnel, educationally disadvantaged, and economically disadvantaged.
  • To promote the development of critical thinking skills.
  • To enable graduates to practice competent health care with an emphasis in primary care and/or work in federally underserved communities.
  • To prepare students for their role as professional clinicians working as part of an interprofessional team.
Leadership Expand answer
Faculty and Staff Expand answer

Program Expectations and Standards

Culture of Respect in Education (CORE) Expand answer

Maintaining a culture of respect in our clinical learning environment is a core value of our institution with input from our trainees, as well as faculty, nursing staff, medical students, and others. We have developed the attached working document that describes the expected behaviors in our professional interactions. We also have provided examples of behaviors that we believe are not conducive to a productive educational experience.

View Policies on Respectful Treatment of Learners

As students interact with others, students may witness or experience behaviors that are suboptimal. If you believe that an encounter violates our core values for a respectful working environment or if a student believes that they or others have been the object of mistreatment in the clinical or non-clinical settings, it is expected that appropriate action will result.

There are many opportunities for you to do so, including; a discussion with the individual that you believe has been the source of disrespect or mistreatment, PA Program Director or others in the Program’s administration, your advisors, or the PA Program ombudspersons (Dr. Pat McQuillan or Dr. Peter Lewis)

We are firmly committed to providing a clinical learning environment that allows each learner to reach the milestones necessary in their training to become a competent, compassionate Physician Assistant.

The Mistreatment Reporting Form can be completed either anonymously or with the student’s contact information as part of this action. If you want to receive feedback form your complaint, the student would need to provide their contact information. All allegations are investigated.

Students who violate the anti-harassment policy will be sanctioned by the program, as the program expects professional behavior on the part of the student. Sanctions can include disciplinary actions which might rise to the level of dismissal from the program. The Penn State College of Medicine PA Program takes mutual respect and professional behavior seriously, and will take appropriate measures in order to ensure that students are provided with the best educational experiences possible.

The program will make every attempt to place students in safe clinical environments. The program recommends that safety precautions be carried out at all times and in every environment. If a student on clinical rotations believes that they are being put into an environment where any type of harassment is suspected, that student is to immediately contact the program’s clinical coordinator. If a student feels unsafe at any point during the supervised clinical practices, the student is to seek safety at once, notify appropriate authorities, and then notify the program’s clinical coordinator once the student is in a safe environment.

Technical standards for admission, academic progress and graduation Expand answer

The technical standards for the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program have been established to ensure that candidates have the ability to demonstrate academic mastery, competence when performing clinical skills, and ability to communicate clinical information.

These technical standards are intended to ensure that each candidate has the academic and physical ability to acquire competencies, as defined by the National Commission on Accreditation of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the Accreditation Review Commission for Education of the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). The technical standards are consistent with the technical standards set forth by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program is committed to creating a respectful, accessible, and inclusive learning environment for all students and does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual preference, gender identity, ethnicity, handicap or socioeconomic status.

Out of that commitment, and in accordance with both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Program offers support to those individuals who may require a disability accommodation. If a candidate states they are unable to meet the technical standards due to a diagnosed disability, the Penn State College of Medicine will determine whether the candidate can meet the technical standards with reasonable accommodation. This includes a review of whether the accommodations requested would jeopardize patient safety or the educational process of the student or the institution, including all coursework and clinical rotations deemed essential to graduation.

A candidate with a documented disability who wishes to request academic accommodations is encouraged to contact the Office for Disability Services at 717-531-3033 or via email at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

All candidates, with or without reasonable accommodation, are required to master activities described herein; including patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. These technical standards are required for admission and must be maintained throughout a student’s progress from matriculation through graduation from the Physician Assistant Program.

All candidates must be able to independently meet the following standards:

Observation – A candidate must possess:

  • vision, hearing, and touch, or the functional equivalent, in order to be able to integrate, analyze, and synthesize data in a consistent and accurate manner o the ability to perceive pain, pressure, temperature, position, vibration, equilibrium, and movement
  • the ability to observe demonstrations, exercises, and patients accurately at a distance and close at hand
  • the ability to note non-verbal as well as verbal signals

Communication – A candidate must be able to:

  • communicate effectively in a professional manner with patients, families, caregivers, faculty and colleagues
  • elicit and transmit patient information in oral and written English to all members of the healthcare team
  • accurately describe changes in mood, activity and posture o read at a level sufficient to accomplish curricular requirements and provide clinical care for patients
  • write or type appropriate medical documents according to protocol in a thorough and timely manner

Motor Function – A candidate must be able to:

  • perform the basic and advanced clinical procedures that are requirements of the PA program curriculum
  • execute motor movements required to provide and/or direct the provision of general care and emergency treatment to patients o perform routine physical examination and diagnostic maneuvers
  • carry out treatment maneuvers, which may include lifting, transferring of patients and assisting during ambulation while assuring their own safety as well as the safety of the patient
  • coordinate the use of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and prolonged standing or sitting
  • elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and movement of limbs

Critical Thinking Ability – A candidate must be able to:

  • independently access and interpret medical histories or files
  • identify significant findings from history, physical examination, and laboratory data o provide a reasoned explanation for likely diagnoses and prescribed medications and therapy
  • recall and retain information in an efficient and timely manner and be able to ascertain the relationship between this retained information and its application in clinical practice
  • calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize
  • incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and the medical literature in formulating diagnoses and plans

Behavioral and Social Skills – A candidate must be able to:

  • demonstrate the maturity and emotional stability required for full use of their intellectual abilities
  • exercise good judgment and professionalism in both the educational and clinical settings
  • be honest, self-assess own mistakes, respond constructively to feedback and assume responsibility for maintaining professional behavior
  • promptly complete responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients under potentially stressful circumstances, emergency situations, and extended hours
  • develop empathic, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, families, caregivers, faculty and colleagues
  • adapt to changing environments and to learn in the face of uncertainties inherent in the practice of medicine
  • respond to supervision appropriately and act within the scope of practice, when indicated

Ethical and Legal Standards – A candidate must:

  • behave in an ethical and moral manner consistent with professional values and standards
  • understand the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of medicine and function within both the law and ethical standards of the medical profession
  • meet the legal standards to be licensed to practice medicine.

Physical Demands
The U.S. Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) defines the physical demands strength rating as the estimated overall strength requirement of the job. It represents the strength requirements which are considered to be important for average, successful work performance. The strength rating is expressed by one of five terms and the PA profession is considered light work (L).

A candidate must:

  • possess the physical ability to learn and implement the various technical skills required by the program.
  • possess an adequate range of body motion and mobility, with or without accommodation, to perform the following essential functions: prolonged periods of sitting and/or standing, occasional bending and stooping and the ability to lift and carry books and other items such as medical instruments weighing up to ten (10) pounds with or without accommodation.
  • be able to exert up to twenty (20) pounds of force occasionally, and/or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, and/or a negligible amount of force constantly (constantly is defined as an activity or condition that exists 2/3 or more of the time) to lift, carry, push or pull or otherwise move objects including the human body.
  • physical demand requirements are in excess of those for sedentary work. Light work requires walking or standing to a significant degree but may also involve sitting for prolonged periods of time. Physical Demands Strength Rating

The ability to meet the technical standards established by the program is essential for the fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree. In the event that a matriculated student is unable to fulfill these technical standards, with or without reasonable accommodations, the student may be counseled to pursue alternate careers.

Student Professionalism Expand answer

Students are expected to demonstrate professional and altruistic behavior at all times using the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) guidelines, as detailed below.

  • Students should exhibit honesty and integrity, including:
    • Forthright, truthful and trustworthy behavior.
    • Appropriate identification of status when participating in patient care.
    • Showing ethical behavior at all times.
  • Students should demonstrate responsibility and reliability, including:
    • Punctuality and meeting deadlines.
    • Compliance with policies, rules, regulations and laws.
    • Attendance at required sessions.
    • Demonstration of appropriate prioritization between personal and professional life.
    • Demonstration of accountability, including appropriate assumption of responsibility and reporting inappropriate behaviors.
  • Students should demonstrate respect for others, including:
    • Respecting the authority and knowledge of other professionals.
    • Working with and showing respect to all team members.
    • Showing appropriate grooming and cleanliness.
  • Students should demonstrate altruism and empathy, including:
    • Showing appropriate concern for others.
    • Perception and acknowledgment of others’ physical, emotional and social needs.
    • Demonstration of sensitivity and concern regarding those needs.
    • Maintenance of objectivity in difficult interactions with other individuals.
  • Students should demonstrate commitment to competence and excellence, including:
    • Setting, achieving and reflecting on realistic goals.
    • Routinely seeking to develop additional knowledge and skills.
    • Striving for excellence rather than to just meet minimum standards.
  • Students should demonstrate responsibility for self-assessment and self-improvement, including:
    • Admission of errors and accepting responsibility for actions.
    • Seeking feedback and implementing changes as a result of feedback.
    • Demonstration of appropriate self-confidence.
    • Asking for help when appropriate.
  • Students should demonstrate respect for patients and their families, including:
    • Sensitivity to patients’ beliefs, opinions, gender, race, culture, religion, sexual preference, and status.
    • Respecting patients’ autonomy and right to choose.
    • Demonstration and maintenance of sensitivity to confidential patient information.
Faculty Expectations of Student Behavior Expand answer

The classroom is designed in a manner that promotes a proper learning environment for students. Students displaying inappropriate behavior in the classroom, on campus, or in the clinical environment will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal from the classroom or the clinical environment. Repetitive instances of inappropriate behavior will require completion of a Behavior Concern Form, in response to their behavior.

Classroom Behavior

Students must perform in a professional manner while in the classroom and demonstrate collegiality with students, faculty, staff, and guest lectures at all times.

  • Students are expected to arrive to class on time and ready to learn.
  • Students are expected to attend class consistently.
  • Students are expected to complete all class assignments within deadlines provided.
  • Students should keep all cell phones turned off or silenced unless instructed otherwise.
  • Students are expected to respect the opinions of others; including classmates, faculty/staff, and guest lecturers at all times.

Interpersonal Behavior

Utilization of appropriate interpersonal behaviors will facilitate a respectful and collegial environment for student learners.

  • Students are expected to demonstrate emotional maturity and stability through challenges while forming professional work relationships with faculty, staff, preceptorship/clinical rotation personnel, and their peers.
  • Students are expected to avoid engaging in physical or verbal altercations.
  • Students are expected to utilize positive and constructive interpersonal skills in conflict resolution.

Clinical Behavior

Students must interact in a professional and respectful manner with all members of the health care and educational team.

  • Students must comply with all program policies as outlined in the student handbook.
  • Students must follow all hospital and clinic policies and procedures as set forth during the practice / facility orientation.
  • Students must maintain required GPA requirements for program progression.
  • Students must follow the appropriate procedures for requesting time off from rotations.
  • Student requests for time off from clinical rotations must be submitted to the clinical coordinator, not to the preceptor.
  • Students must maintain patient confidentiality and follow all HIPAA guidelines.
  • Students must comply with local, state, and national laws at all times.
  • Students must attend clinical rotations as submitted on their rotation schedule.
  • Students are not permitted to seek medical advice for themselves, family, or friends while on clinical rotations.
  • Students may only perform procedural skills under the direct supervision of a clinical faculty member or designated preceptor.
  • Students may not discuss or criticize the actions of their patients, peers, healthcare professionals, or any others in a public manner and must discuss any problems or concerns directly with the Clinical Coordinator.

Behavior During Assessments

Students must abide by the guidelines set forth for attire and behavior during program-related assessments in addition to maintaining the integrity of the program assessments by upholding academic integrity expectations.

  • Students must bring a computer for assessments unless otherwise instructed.
  • Students may have a blank sheet of paper and pen/pencil with them during their assessment. No other items will be permitted.
  • Students must place all belongings, including cell phones and smart watches/devices in the area designated by exam proctors prior to beginning written examinations.
  • Students are not permitted to wear hats or sunglasses during assessments.
  • Students should be seated in a forward facing position during assessments.
  • Students may have a drink with them during testing, however, food is not permitted.
  • Students should not leave the testing area except in the case of an emergency. If a student needs to leave the testing area to utilize the restroom, only one (1) student may leave at a time.
  • Students should not discuss any part of the assessment with one another.
  • During examination reviews, students are not permitted to take notes or remove examination materials/items from the classroom.

Failure to meet behavior expectations of the program will result in a referral to CPC/APC and may result in dismissal of the student from the Physician Assistant Program. Furthermore, acts of plagiarism, cheating, and other illegal behaviors are subject to disciplinary actions, including dismissal from the Program.

Program Competencies for Graduates Expand answer

The following program competencies were developed to support the mission, vision, and goals of the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in reference to the PAEA Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates (9-7-2019).

1. Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge: Graduates will be able to recognize healthy versus ill patients in the context of the patients’ lives and determine the stage of illness — acute, at risk (emerging), or chronic illness. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to utilize up-to-date scientific evidence to inform clinical reasoning and clinical judgment.

  • PCPK 1.1 Recognize normal and abnormal health states
  • PCPK 1.2 Discern among acute, chronic, and emerging disease states
  • PCPK 1.3 Determine healthy versus ill patients
  • PCPK 1.4 Determine differential diagnosis, order interpret laboratory and imaging, perform necessary core duty procedures, diagnose, treat and manage illness
  • PCPK 1.5 Meaningfully interact with patients who do not have a clear diagnosis despite evaluation and treatment

2. Society and Population Health: Graduates will be able to recognize and understand that the influences of the larger community may affect the health of patients and integrate knowledge of social determinants of health into care decisions.

  • SPH 2.1 Determine the cultural norms, needs, influences, and socioeconomic, environmental, and other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual in the community being served
  • SPH 2.2 Determine the potential impacts of biology and genetics on patients, and incorporate them into decisions of care
  • SPH 2.3 Propose solutions to address barriers of care, such as health disparities
  • SPH 2.4 Describe the role of structural disparities in illness
  • SPH 2.5 Engage with the health care team in determining the adequacy of individual and community resources
  • SPH 2.6 Identify the scope of practice for a physician assistant
  • SPH 2.7 Apply the fundamental principles of epidemiology
  • SPH 2.8 Identify issues and reflect on possible quality improvement strategies
  • SPH 2.9 Use appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions regarding patient care

3. Health Literacy and Communication: Graduates will be able to communicate with patients as partners who engage in shared decision-making and who communicate, interpret, and express themselves as individuals with unique personal, cultural, and social values.

  • HLC 3.1 Ascertain patient needs and goals while delivering culturally competent care
  • HLC 3.2 Recognize the need for patients have access to unbiased, professional interpreters and appropriate resources when barriers to communication arise
  • HLC 3.3 Demonstrate the ability to recognize and support emotions during patient care
  • HLC 3.4 Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and Approved by PAMPEC, July 2020 services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs
  • HLC 3.5 Organize and communicate information with patients and families in a way that is understandable, checking to ensure understanding

4. Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership: Graduates will be able to recognize that the patient is at the center of all healthcare decisions and to partner with the patient to define the patient’s health care goals.

  • ICPL 4.1 Articulate one’s role and responsibilities to patients, families, communities, and other professionals
  • ICPL 4.2 Advocate for the needs of the patient as a part of the health care team.
  • ICPL 4.3 Determine when referrals are needed and follow the protocols
  • ICPL 4.4 Use the full scope of knowledge, skills, and abilities of available health professionals to provide care that is safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable
  • ICPL 4.5 Describe how professionals in health and other fields can collaborate and integrate clinical care and public health interventions to optimize population health

5. Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care: Graduates will be able to practice medicine in a beneficent manner, recognizing and adhering to standards of care while attuned to advancing social justice.

  • PL 5.1 Participate in difficult conversations with patients and colleagues
  • PL 5.2 Demonstrate respect for the dignity and privacy of patients while maintaining confidentiality in the delivery of team-based care
  • PL 5.3 Demonstrate professional behaviors and accountability to patients and society
  • PL 5.4 Describe the role of the regulatory environment in actual clinical practice

6. Health Care Finance and Systems: Graduates will be able to articulate the essential aspects of value-based healthcare and apply this understanding to the delivery of safe and quality care.

  • HCFS 6.1 Discuss financial implications to the provision of healthcare on individual and global basis
  • HCFC 6.2 Differentiate between the types of health systems, funding streams, and insurance, including the role of Medicare and Medicare as payors

The above program competencies encompass the complex conceptual aspects of the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant program and were utilized to construct the following specific Graduate Competencies.

Expected Graduate Functions and Tasks

Overview Expand answer

As a result of their education and training, graduates of the Penn State Physician Assistant Program learn to perform with competency and proficiency to fulfill the following tasks involved in patient care: a) evaluation, b) monitoring, c) diagnostics, d) therapeutics, e) counseling, f) referral, g) prescribing practices and h) professionalism.

Evaluation Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Elicit a detailed, accurate and comprehensive patient history;
  • Organize and present data from the history and physical examination;
  • Perform an appropriate, problem-focused physical examination for patients;
  • Delineate pertinent problems, if present;
  • Order routine/emergent diagnostic and laboratory tests;
  • Evaluate the need for preventive healthcare measures such as vaccinations, routine laboratory and diagnostic studies, and screening procedures (e.g., mammograms, hemoccult testing).
Monitoring Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Provide care to patients in acute, ambulatory, inpatient, and operative settings;
  • Order diagnostic tests necessary for preventive care;
  • Recommend appropriate follow-up plans; and
  • Complete medical documentation.
Diagnostics Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to appropriately order and interpret the following diagnostic tests:

Common Laboratory Tests

  • Complete blood count, including differential smears and platelet counts
  • Basic and comprehensive metabolic panel
  • Bleeding and clotting times
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rates/c-reactive proteins
  • Lipid profiles
  • Cardiac function tests/BNP
  • Cultures: Blood, CSF, sputum, stool and wound
  • Urinalysis
  • Routine stool studies
  • Intradermal skin tests (PPD)
  • Pap smears
  • Arterial blood gases
  • Pulmonary function tests

Common Diagnostic Studies

  • Conventional radiograph of the chest, abdomen and extremities
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • CT scans of the head, spine, chest, abdomen, and pelvis
  • MRI of the brain and spine
Therapeutics Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to perform the following procedures:

  • Arterial punctures
  • Nasogastric intubation
  • Cerumen impaction removal
  • Incision and drainage of superficial skin infections
  • Foreign body removal (eyes, ears, nose)
  • Administer medications through various routes
  • Phlebotomy and intravenous catheterization
  • Injections (intramuscular, subcutaneous, intradermal)
  • Cast and splint application and removal
  • Urinary bladder catheterization
  • Laceration repair (insertion and removal of sutures/staples)
  • Aseptic and sterile technique
  • Pelvic examination

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Develop and implement patient management plans;
  • Function as a surgical first assist;
  • Provide care for post-operative patients and complications;
  • Follow ACLS and PALS guidelines to manage life-threatening arrhythmias;
  • Manage procedural complications and adverse effects of medications; and
  • Make recommendations for medical therapeutics and clinical interventions

Program graduates will be able to initiate the management of acute, life-threatening conditions; including:

  • Traumatic Injuries
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Life-Threatening Arrhythmias
  • Dissection or Ruptured Aortic Aneurysm
  • Stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic
Counseling Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to provide instruction and counseling to patients regarding:

  • Preventive medicine and health promotion techniques
  • Compliance with prescribed therapeutic regimens
  • Typical growth and development in the pediatric patient
  • Family planning methods
  • Informed consent regarding certain procedures, diseases and medications
  • Patient education on the impact of healthy habits and lifestyles
  • Healthcare accessibility
Referral Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Recognize practice limitations and the need for expert consultation
  • Facilitate the timely referral of patients to specialty providers.
Prescribing Practices Expand answer

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Prescribe medications according to state licensure and prescriptive authority
  • Provide care and develop management plans within the PA scope of practice
Professionalism Expand answer

Program graduates will demonstrate professionalism in accordance with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), as detailed above.

Calendar and Curriculum

Academic Calendar: Class of 2023 Expand answer

The academic calendar is subject to change at the discretion of the PA Program director, faculty and staff. Students will be apprised of all schedule changes via email as changes are made.

Academic Calendar: Class of 2024 Expand answer

The academic calendar is subject to change at the discretion of the PA Program director, faculty and staff. Students will be apprised of all schedule changes via email as changes are made.

Clinical Year Curriculum (46 credits) Expand answer

See the Clinical Year Curriculum here (mandatory and elective rotations).

Program Policies and Procedures

COVID-19 Statement Expand answer

We know from existing data that wearing a mask in public can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community (Lyu & Wehby, 2020; CDC, 2020; Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020). In accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Pennsylvania State University has determined that everyone will be required to wear a face mask in university and College of Medicine buildings, including classrooms and patient care settings. You must wear a mask appropriately (i.e., covering both your mouth and nose). Masks have been provided for students, instructors and staff, and everyone is expected to wear one while inside any university, College of Medicine or medical center building.

Any updates to COVID-19 related guidelines for students within the College of Medicine will be relayed to students as policy changes occur.

Advanced Placement Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program is a full-time academic program. The program’s curriculum is administered in a sequential fashion that builds on courses completed in the prior term. Consequently, the program does not award credit for experiential learning or accept advanced placement into the professional phase of the program.

Discrimination, Harassment, Mistreatment and Bullying Policy Expand answer

The College of Medicine is committed to upholding the Penn State policy of providing a responsive environment free of intolerance, discrimination, harassment and coercion. Students should never be placed in an environment where harassment occurs. It is the goal and intent of Penn State University, the College of Medicine and the Physician Assistant Program to create learning environments that are conducive to positive and respectful behavior at all times; with the students, faculty and staff being held to a high standard of professional behavior. Environments that do not encourage and support respect, dignity and professionalism at all times will not be tolerated.

Harassment is defined as verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on color, race, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning or could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.

Harassment includes not only offensive behavior that interferes with a person’s or group’s well-being or development, but also such behaviors that interfere with one’s employment, educational status, performance, or that create a hostile working, academic or social environment. In this regard, sexual violence is deemed to be a form of sexual harassment. It is a violation for a university person — student, faculty, staff, guest or visitor or anyone else, acting at the instigation of a university person — to:

  • Engage in any form of harassment whether intentional or unintentional on the campus or in the off-campus area.
  • Retaliate against a person who has initiated an inquiry or complaint having to do with harassment.

The Office for a Respectful Learning Environment supports students requesting their assistance and provides a means for students to report incidents where the student perceives that mistreatment has taken place.

View the Policies on Respectful Treatment of Learners

Questions? Contact George Blackall, PsyD, Director of the Office for a Respectful Learning Environment, at gblackall@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or 717-531-6148.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment is defined as verbal, written or physical conduct — either a single incident or a persistent pattern of behavior — directed at a person or a group based on one’s color, race, national origin or ethnicity, where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning or could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.

Harassment on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

Harassment on the basis of sexual orientation is defined as any verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person, or a group based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning or could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.

Sexual Harassment and Violence

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature for submission to such conduct:

  • is a condition for grades, academic status, promotion or employment;
  • is used as a basis for academic/employment/clinical placement decisions affecting an individual;
  • interferes unreasonably with the individual’s academic/clinical performance or creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating learning/working environment.

Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability.

Any member of the College of Medicine Community who experiences sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior that interferes with the learning environment should contact the following individual at this campus for confidential assistance: Brie Anderson, Domestic/Sexual Violence Medical Advocate, 717-531-5188, banderson@ywca.hbg.org.

Students may also contact the Affirmative Action Office at University Park at 814-863-0471.

The resource person does not pressure students into decisions about handling the encounters – they provide support and empower students with information about choices for handling the situation and provide protection against retaliation. An appropriate warning, sometimes in the form of a letter, often terminates the problem without the need to file formal charges with the Affirmative Action Office. The resource person provides assistance if the student decides to file a formal charge with the Affirmative Action Office.

Criminal Background Check Policy and Procedure Expand answer

In accordance with recommendations set forth by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program requires that all students complete criminal background checks prior to matriculation. Information regarding the completion of a criminal background check is sent to students prior to matriculation and again prior to clinical year.

The following clearances must be completed at the cost of the student prior to matriculation and in advance of clinical year:

  • Pennsylvania Criminal History (PATCH)
  • Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Federal Criminal History/Fingerprinting via Cogent

The history of some criminal activity may preclude students/graduates from clinical preceptorships, professional licensing, and/or hiring into clinical practice. The program is not responsible for the student’s inability to complete clinical rotation requirements due to a history of criminal activity.

All criminal background check requirements will be initiated through a Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Student Portal in partnership with Castle Branch to offer the most secure and user-friendly way for students to initiate and maintain their background check documents, immunization records and health forms via the student portal. Additionally, the utilization of the student portal provides the program with a secure and confidential method for reviewing records that arise from these checks.

Students with questions about the Castle Branch Student Portal should contact Caryn Stopper, Director of Admissions.

All candidates for admission must acknowledge and provide written explanation of any felony offense or disciplinary action taken against them prior to matriculation. Students convicted of any felony offense while enrolled in the PA Program must notify the Program Director as to the nature of the conviction within five (5) days of the conviction. Failure to disclose prior or new offenses will result in dismissal from the program.

Drug-Free Workplace Policy Expand answer

It is the policy of The Pennsylvania State University that the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of a controlled substance, on property owned, leased or controlled by the University and used in the performance of University services is prohibited. Every student shall abide by the terms of this policy and he or she shall notify the PA Program of any criminal drug conviction for a violation occurring in the University no later than five (5) days after such conviction. View the full Drug-Free Workplace Policy here.

Drug and Alcohol Screening Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program prides itself on having professional and competent students. Pursuant to this goal, it is the expectation that students will not be under the influence of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs while attending class, laboratory sessions or clinical rotations.

The following policy will be enforced for all students in the professional phase of the PA program:

The program director, clinical preceptors, faculty and the clinical coordinator reserve the right to request a drug screen when drug or alcohol use is suspected by the program staff or the clinical preceptor. If the preceptor suspects illicit use, the preceptor will contact the program immediately. In addition, many hospitals and offices require drug screening prior to doing a rotation in their facility. Students should be prepared for drug testing at any point in their training and must comply when a test is requested. Failure to obtain drug testing when requested will be interpreted in the same manner as a positive drug test and sanctions for these positive tests can include dismissal from the PA Program.

The PA Program has partnered with Castle Branch to initiate, collect and share drug screening tests and test results. Drug testing often requires an appointment, which may be scheduled on the same day as the incident, especially if alcohol use is suspected. If the student does not go for testing at the appointed time, the student’s test results will be considered a positive drug screen or positive for alcohol, even if the screening process was not completed.

The results will be interpreted, and the report will be sent to the program via Castle Branch. A positive drug test which is not related to a legally prescribed therapy drug will result in immediate dismissal from the PA Program.

If the student is on a prescribed substance, they must immediately provide documentation from their licensed health care provider that there is a medical necessity for the medication. Despite a medical necessity for taking this medication, the student may not be able to attend a clinical site if this medication impairs the ability of the student to function in a safe and effective capacity. Students may be pulled from their clinical sites if the program determines that they are not able to safely function in the clinical setting. Students are able to request a medical leave of absence if they believe that a medical condition would prohibit them from appropriately functioning in their role as a student health care provider.

The cost of the drug screen is at the student’s expense. The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program will not be held liable for a student’s dismissal or inability to obtain a state license as the result of a positive drug screen or noncompliance with statutes regarding impaired provider performance.

Students will be provided with information regarding impaired provider networks available to them as students during the student orientation program.

Penn State College of Medicine follows the same guidelines and policies enforced by Penn State.

Policy on Student Roles and Employment During Program Enrollment Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program faculty do not encourage students to work while enrolled in the program. However, we realize that students have different financial obligations and may need to work while enrolled in the program. The program is confident that we are educating adults who are capable of making a personal decision about the necessity of working and therefore we do not require students to disclose to the program whether work is taking place. However, it is the expectation that the PA Program is the student’s primary responsibility. Furthermore, concessions for missed classes, late assignments, scheduled assessments and clinical rotation obligations due to work outside of the program will not be made.

Students are not permitted to work for the PA Program in any capacity while enrolled as a student at the Penn State College of Medicine.

Additionally, students may not substitute for or function as instructional faculty, clinical staff or administrative staff while enrolled as a student at the Penn State College of Medicine.

Accommodations for Students with Documented Disabilities Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to diversity and inclusion and, out of that commitment, supports the success of students with disabilities in all aspects of the University’s educational programs.

If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in this course, please contact the College of Medicine’s disability services coordinator through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Belonging at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or 717-531-3033.

The disability services coordinator will share with you the documentation guidelines to be considered for academic accommodation (see Disability Documentation Guidelines).

If the documentation you provide supports the need for accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the disability services coordinator will provide you a letter identifying appropriate accommodation(s), and work directly with you and your instructors to implement approved accommodations in the classroom, laboratory, clinical and/or examination settings.

View more information about student disability resources at the College of Medicine

View Penn State University disability resources

The Disability Statement Policy for the Penn State College of Medicine can be found on Policy Manager (Penn State Health ePass login required).

HIPAA Expand answer

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that all healthcare providers respect patient confidence and realize that healthcare providers are given access to information that is highly confidential and personal. HIPAA mandates that the healthcare provider does not use their position as a healthcare provider to gain inappropriate access to patient records. Furthermore, it mandates that patient information can only be released to others after consent is granted by the patient. HIPAA regulations include fines and/or prosecution for the organization and healthcare provider if information is disseminated without patient consent.

Students receive training and education about HIPAA regulations beginning at student orientation with concepts reintroduced throughout the pre-clinical and clinical years. Annual successful completion of the HIPAA training, as required by Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, will be documented in the student files. All clinical sites mandate that this training has taken place.

For students attending clinical rotations, HIPAA is fully enforceable. Students should take every precaution in guarding patient information and should be aware that patient cases should not be discussed in public areas. When documenting student notes for the program assignments, only initials, rather than actual patient names, should be used. Identifying patient information should be removed prior to submitting any documentation to the program.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants has issued a “Code of Ethics of the Physician Assistant Profession.” The following statement is extracted from this principle regarding patient confidentiality: “Physician Assistants shall uphold the doctrine of confidentiality regarding privileged patient information, unless required to release such information by law or such information becomes necessary to protect the welfare of the patient or community.”

A confidentiality agreement verifying that the student will maintain confidentially related to patient matters must be completed by all Physician Assistant students prior to having contact with patients in a clinical setting. Patient confidentiality is a serious issue and violation of this standard may result in dismissal from the PA Program.

Institutions hold patient privacy in high esteem. Students can be dismissed from the clinical rotation site and from the PA program for violating patient privacy. Students should not access patient files if they are not involved with the patient’s case, and should not attempt to access files of people with whom they have no professional relationship.

View the Penn State University policy on HIPAA

Malpractice Insurance Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine mandates that all Physician Assistant students carry malpractice insurance while enrolled in the Physician Assistant Program. Malpractice insurance must be renewed annually at the financial responsibility of the student. A copy of the malpractice insurance certificate will be maintained by the program and will be provided to all clinical sites prior to student arrival at the clinical site. Students should also have a copy of their malpractice insurance readily available at each clinical rotation.

  • Malpractice coverage must be consistent with requirements for student malpractice in Pennsylvania or requested by the clinical rotation site
  • Students are not covered by malpractice insurance during any personal volunteer activities that are not coordinated by the Physician Assistant program
  • Students must inform the program about any negative outcomes or events that occur during a clinical encounter while on rotations.
  • Students are not permitted to see patients in an office, clinic or hospital setting without the clinical preceptor seeing the patient during their visit/hospitalization.
Program Provision of Health Care to Students Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program faculty, leadership and staff may not serve as health care providers to students enrolled in the PA Program.

Student Health Policy: Infectious Disease Prevention Program Expand answer

Students matriculating into the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program must complete the mandatory requirements and forms listed on the Student Health website prior to April 3 of their entering year.

Fees will be incurred for students that do not complete these requirements prior to April 3. Students accepted after March 1 will have five (5) weeks from their acceptance date to complete their requirements before incurring the $50 fee, which increases to $100 after six (6) weeks, and to $150 after eight (8) weeks.

Preventive Health Requirements and Immunization Policy for New Physician Assistant Students Expand answer

Healthcare workers are at risk for exposure to serious and potentially deadly diseases. The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program requires that all students maintain immunizations as recommended for healthcare workers by the CDC (See Recommended Vaccines for Healthcare Workers Page), as well as any Penn State Health or state specific mandates.

Facilities and hospitals often require additional immunizations and titers which are required by students prior to starting clinical rotations at those sites. Students will receive additional requirements prior to starting the rotation.

Failure to comply with the Immunization Policy for the Department of Physician Assistant Studies or any additional immunizations and titers for clinical rotations will result in the inability to enter, continue with, or complete the program.

Health Screening: completed by the student, then reviewed and signed by your health care provider

  • The results of student health screenings will be maintained confidentially in the Student Health Office.
  • Students identified by Student Health while reviewing pre-matriculation physical examination reports as having a chronic illness or other need to establish care will be contacted to schedule an appointment.

Physical Examination: form completed and signed by your health care provider within the past 12 months

  • The results of the examination will be maintained confidentially in the Student Health Office and will not be accessible or reviewed by the program, principal, or instructional faculty.

Immunization and Infectious Disease Form: completed and signed by your health care provider with lab copies of titer results included. Immunization and screening results will be maintained in the Student Health Office and will be released to the program principal and instructional faculty only with the written permission of the student. (View the student health website for links to download the form.)

  • Screening Requirements:
    • Tuberculosis Screening: Results of a two (2) – step PPD or one (1) IGRA blood test are required regardless of prior BCG status.
      • Screening is required after March 1 of the matriculation year.
  • Immunization Requirements:
    • Influenza (Flu): One (1) dose of influenza vaccine annually.
    • Hepatitis B: A quantitative titer (numerical value of immunity) with reference range, is required.
      • If no documented evidence of a complete hepB vaccine series, or if you don’t have a blood test that shows you are immune to hepatitis:
        • Get a three (3) dose series of Recombivax HB or Engerix-B (dose # 1 now, # 2 in one month, # 3 approximately five months after # 2) or a two (2) dose series of Heplisav-B with the doses separated by at least 4 weeks followed by an anti-HBs serologic test 1-2 months after the final dose.
        • If titer is negative, complete a second series of two (2) doses of Heplisav-B, followed by an anti-HBs serologic test 1-2 months after the final dose.
        • If titer is still negative, additional testing including Hepatitis B Surface Antigen and Core Antibody should be performed in accordance with CDC recommendations.
    • Measles, Mumps, & Rubella (MMR): Two (2) doses of MMR vaccine OR positive serology for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
      • If any serologic test is interpreted as “indeterminate” or “equivocal” student should be considered not immune and should receive two (2) doses of MMR vaccine at a minimum interval of 28 days.
  • Varicella (Chickenpox): Two (2) doses of vaccine OR positive serology.
    • If serologic test is interpreted as “indeterminate” or “equivocal” student is not immune and should receive two (2) doses of the Varicella vaccine at a minimum interval of 28 days.
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, & Pertussis (Tdap):
    • Students must have received one (1) dose of Tdap or Td within the last 5 years.
    • Students who have never received DTaP vaccines, or who vaccination history is unknown, should receive a 3-dose series of the Tdap/Td:
      • Tdap for dose # 1, followed 4 weeks later by Td for dose # 2, followed at least 6 months later by Td for dose # 3. Tdap can substitute for one of the 3 Td doses in the series, preferably the 1st. Previously administered Tdap/Td count for any or all of this series.
  • Polio: Three (3) or four (4) doses of oral or inactivated polio vaccine. If no documentation, must receive a 3-dose series of IPV. (See CDC Polio Recommendations)
  • COVID-19: Two (2) doses of Moderna or Pfizer OR one (1) dose of Johnson & Johnson Janssen. CDC states fully vaccinated status is considered two (2) weeks following the last dose of either manufacturer. Booster doses are not required at this time, however, can be documented. Pending modifications to CDC recommendations, this requirement is subject to change.
  • Meningococcal: One (1) dose of MCV4 Meningococcal conjugate sergroups A, C, W, Y immunization on OR after their 16th birthday is required for all students who will reside in campus housing.

Questions about immunization requirements may be directed to the Immunization Nurse at 717-531-5998.

All costs incurred in complying with this policy are the responsibility to the student.

Pre-registration Form: completed with a copy of current insurance card attached.

  • Health Insurance Requirements: All students enrolled in the Penn State College of Medicine PA Program must maintain personal health insurance throughout their professional education.
  • At the student’s expense, a limited health insurance policy is provided by the University if the student cannot provide proof of insurance coverage. Students may waive out of the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan, but must do so by the deadline date provided. Otherwise, the fee will be automatically charged to their student account.
    • In order for an insurance plan to meet the Penn State University mandatory insurance waiver criteria, the insurance plan must feature, at a minimum, all of the following:
      • Coverage that allows the insured student to receive outpatient, emergency, specialist and inpatient care, maternity benefits, diagnostic testing and procedures, and mental health inpatient and outpatient care, including alcohol and substance abuse treatment. Pay benefits worldwide.
        • A deductible not greater than $3,000 per policy year.
        • Have an unlimited maximum benefit per incident
        • Must be provided by an insurance company domiciled in the United States or must be provided by an international insurance company with a United States partner for handling of insurance claims in the United States.
    • For students engaged in school-sanctioned activities outside of the United States, evacuation insurance for medical illness and injury or reasons of civil unrest, must be purchased prior to the time of travel.
  • Questions may be directed to the Penn State College of Medicine Bursar’s office at Bursar-Com@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or 717-531-6126.
Social Media Policy Expand answer

Online communication using social media and networking platforms are a form of daily communication for many individuals. The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program expects all students to behave in an ethical and responsible manner with this form of communication.

The definition of social networking includes but is not limited to: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Weblogs, Online Discussion Boards, or any other online application that allows an individual to post or publish content on the internet.

The following guidelines have been developed to protect the privacy, confidentiality, and reputation of patients, fellow students, faculty and staff, clinical educators, clinical sites, the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program and Pennsylvania State University.

The Physician Assistant Program has a ZERO tolerance for any violation of the social media policy and will investigate every complaint.

Statement:

  • Students may be held personally liable for proprietary, defamatory, libelous material posted on any form of social media.
  • Students are expected to follow all clinical site policies regarding social media.
  • Students are not to use social media during classes and may be excused at the discretion of the faculty member facilitating the class.
  • Students will face sanctions for posting material that is defamatory, profane, threatening, harassing, hateful or private information that is humiliating to patients and their families, students, hospital/clinical staff, clinical instructors, faculty, staff.
  • Occurrences of inappropriate use of social and electronic media may be submitted to the State Board of Medicine, which may affect licensure.
  • The use of non-PSU email addresses or online identities can be investigated and traced, so their use does not protect the student from responsibility and any liabilities related to posting online materials or social media.
  • Violation of HIPAA policies may result in legal action against the student and dismissal from the program for professionalism violations of HIPAA.
Academic Integrity Policy Expand answer

Academic Integrity at Penn State is defined by Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 as “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner.” Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle.

The University Code of Conduct states, “all students should act with personal integrity; respect other students’ dignity, rights, and property; and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment by all members of the University community not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.”

Academic dishonesty (including, but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, or falsification of information) will not be tolerated and can result in academic or disciplinary sanctions such as a failing grade (F) in the course.

The Academic Integrity Policy for the Penn State College of Medicine can be found on Policy Manager: Academic Integrity (Penn State Health ePass login required).

Grading Policies Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program has adopted the grading scale utilized for all 700 level courses within the College of Medicine and at Penn State University. The following scale lists the final course grade, the translated GPA grade and the quality point assignment to each grade.

PAEA End of Rotation Examinations are graded through ExamDriver/PAEA using scale scores of 300 to 500 points for each examination. Composite performance reports are provided by PAEA to the student/program, which indicate the national average score, the program score, and the standard deviation for each.

Historical reports have demonstrated that using a bell-shaped curve, 68% of test takers fall within 1 standard deviation (SD) above and below the mean, and 95% of test takers fall within 2 standard deviations (SD) above and below the mean.

With the current program threshold of 70% for a passing score, the program has used the following cut points for End of Rotation Examination grading.

Academic Progress Expand answer

Academic Progress for all students enrolled in the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program is monitored by the course faculty/staff in addition to the College of Medicine Competency Progress Committee (CPC) and Academic Progress Committee (APC).

Satisfactory Academic Progress

All students enrolled in the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program must comply with all policies set forth by the Penn State College of Medicine and the Physician Assistant Program. The College of Medicine supports the continued assessment and review of student progress towards academic and competency requirements for graduation.

The CPC and APC are composed of program faculty and administrative representatives from the Penn State College of Medicine and convenes at the end of each term, or as necessary, to review the academic record of each graduate student and determine their academic standing.

Satisfactory Academic Progress will be monitored at the completion of each term and is described as:

  • Maintaining a semester/cumulative GPA of 3.00 or greater.
  • Maintaining no grades lower than a “C” or a “Low Pass.”
  • Maintaining consistent professional behaviors.

Records for any student who has failed to maintain good academic standing (semester GPA of 3.00 or receipt of a “F” in any course) will be reviewed in detail and discussed by the APC. This includes a comprehensive evaluation of performance in all competency measures, including those in courses, clinical rotations, electives, and any other required activities of the PA program.

Following each assessment or evaluation, a student’s ability to meet necessary program competencies will be reviewed. Performance concerns that arise from evaluations and assessments throughout the Pre-Clinical and Clinical Year showing deficiency in a competency domain will be reviewed by the Competency Progress Committee.

Graduate Competencies include the following domains:

  • patient-centered practice knowledge
  • society and population health
  • health literacy and communication
  • interprofessional collaborative practice and leadership
  • professional and legal aspects of health care
  • health care finance and systems

Pre-Clinical Year Students with any assessment failure in the first month of the program must meet with their faculty adviser within one (1) week of the assessment failure. Additionally, students with two (2) or more comprehensive assessment failures and/or three (3) or more low pass scores will be referred to the CPC to receive recommendations and resources to enhance their academic performance.

Students with early professionalism concerns such as tardiness, failure to submit work, poor communication, or frequent absences will be referred to the CPC. Referral to the CPC results in the provision of recommendations and resources that are meant to enhance the student’s understanding and demonstration of professionalism and professional behaviors necessary for a career in healthcare.

A student whose performance in the PA program is of concern as identified by the Competency Progress Committee will be referred to the APC.

Referral to the APC may include, but is not limited to:

  • A student whose performance concern encompasses deficiencies in more than one competency domain
  • A student whose performance concern includes a failing clinical rotation grade or preceptor evaluation
  • A student whose performance concern includes failure to successfully remediate a failing grade
  • A student whose performance concern includes multiple documented lapses in professional behaviors with peers, supervisors, patients and their families, and/or teams
  • A student who demonstrates an egregious act

Clinical Year Students failing one End of Rotation Examination will be referred to CPC. Students failing two End of Rotation Examinations will be referred to APC. Students failing three End of Rotation Examinations will return to APC for additional recommendations, which may include deceleration, completion of an independent study course to enhance knowledge deficits, or program dismissal. Students unable to pass the repeat End of Rotation Examination will be referred to APC for consideration of deceleration, independent study, or program dismissal.

A student whose performance in the PA program is of concern as identified by the Competency Progress Committee will be referred to the APC.

Referral to the APC may include, but is not limited to:

  • A student whose performance concern encompasses deficiencies in more than one competency domain
  • A student failing two or more end of rotation examinations
  • A student whose performance concern includes failure to successfully remediate a failing grade
  • A student whose performance concern includes multiple documented lapses in professional behaviors with peers, supervisors, patients and their families, and/or teams
  • A student who demonstrates an egregious act

Students requiring referral to APC and those students on academic probation are not permitted to participate in the PSPA / AAPA Challenge Bowl, or other events that require time away from their studies.

The APC will make specific recommendations to the Program Director. The Program Director has final authority on academic progress. All correspondence in reference to the APC and Program Director decisions will be placed in the student’s file.

Recommendations regarding academic standing may include academic probation, probationary leave, remediation, deceleration, and/or dismissal from the program. Such recommendations will be formulated by the APC and provided to the student, their adviser, the PA Program Director and the financial aid office. Recommendations for program dismissal will also be sent to the Registrar and the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs.

Academic Probation

May occur one (1) time during the program for students earning an academic semester or cumulative GPA of 2.5-2.99. Students placed on academic probation during their training will remain on academic probation until completion from the PA Program. A second occurrence of semester or cumulative academic GPA of 2.5-2.99 will result in academic dismissal from the PA Program.

Student Deceleration

Students earning a course grade less than a “C” or “Low Pass” in any Pre-Clinical Year curriculum course at the end of the academic semester must repeat the class in order to be eligible for graduation. Because each course is only offered once per year, students must decelerate and wait until the class is offered the following year.

Matriculation back into the PA Program may be possible, but is not a guarantee. Academic decelerations will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Students that decelerate during Pre-Clinical Year phase of the curriculum must repeat the entire Pre-Clinical Year.

Students earning a course grade less than a “C” or “Low Pass” in any Clinical Year curriculum course must repeat the clinical rotation or course in order to be eligible for graduation. Because Clinical Rotations occur on a year-round basis, students may be able to decelerate for up to one term beyond their anticipated date of graduation pending Clinical Rotation availability.

Students that decelerate during the Clinical Year phase of the curriculum and miss three (3) or more consecutive rotations must take a competency examination before being readmitted to clinical rotations. The competency examination will consist of an evaluation of medical knowledge, problem solving, critical thinking, and clinical/technical skills.

  • Students must achieve a 70% or greater to restart clinical rotations.
  • If a student fails the examination, they may retake it one additional time after remediation is performed.
  • If the remediation examination is not passed with a grade of at least 70% on the second examination, the student will be reviewed by the APC. Recommendations may be made by the APC for the student to repeat the entire pre-clinical and clinical phase curriculum.

Breaches in professional behavior may also affect the student’s ability to complete the PA program. Student decelerations for professionalism behaviors may necessitate completion of professionalism courses, patient safety and quality training, or Human Resources training prior to possible matriculation back into the PA program.

Any cost associated with a deceleration is the responsibility of the student.

Student Dismissal

Students may be dismissed from the PA Program for academic or professional reasons.

Any student who earns two or more grades less than a “C” or “Low Pass” in one term, or more than two grades less than a “C” or “Low Pass” will be unable to complete the PA program due to academic dismissal. Students will undergo a detailed review by the APC who will make recommendations to the Program Director.

Students with significant professionalism violations will be reviewed by the APC. If the behavior is deemed inexcusable and unable to be rectified with Professionalism training and advising, the student will be dismissed from the PA Program.

Students that have been dismissed from the program may reapply for matriculation in future cohorts if they so choose.

Remediation Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program will monitor evidence of information mastery through frequent, objective, and documented evaluations of student performance and the ability to meet the program’s learning outcomes and instructional objectives during both the Pre-Clinical and Clinical phases of the program.

Given the nature of continuous assessment throughout the program, student progress is monitored and documented in a manner that promotes the prompt identification of deficiencies in knowledge or skills and establishes a means for remediation.

Remediation is defined by the program as the re-teaching and re-learning of material that a student has not achieved information mastery as evidenced by poor performance on written, oral, or practical/technical examinations and/or assessments.

The goal of remediation within the Physician Assistant program is to utilize course instructional objectives to identify areas of weakness within course material and assist students in overcoming such weaknesses to develop mastery of course material, professionalism, and program competencies.

Academic Remediation

In alignment with the Penn State College of Medicine MD Program, the Physician Assistant Program recognizes a passing grade for any evaluation or assignment the achievement of a grade of 70% or greater. Any grade lower than 70% will constitute failure of an evaluation or assignment and requires remediation of course material.

Remediation of assignments in which a failing grade was received will not replace the initial grade earned by students.

  • Exception: Successful remediation of examinations within the Human Gross Anatomy Course Series will be completed when the student is able to demonstrate proficiency at or above the minimal passing standard as specified by the PA program, and in the course syllabus (70%). The final score adjustment for the examination shall not exceed a 70% for the examination in the calculation of the final course grades.

All students must successfully complete a general Medical Terminology examination following matriculation into the PA program. Students receiving a grade of less than 70% must meet with their faculty adviser, complete a medical terminology remediation program as defined by the program, and score greater than 70% on a repeat assessment within two (2) weeks of the assessment failure.

Unless otherwise specified in the course syllabus, Pre-Clinical Year for all failed assignments/evaluations/practicals will follow a four-step process.

  1. Students will receive a summary of their evaluation results with details surrounding the topic, course instructional objective, and task area in which mastery of information was not achieved from the course instructor.
  2. Students will review the information received and develop a personalized remediation study plan based on identified area(s) of weakness.
  3. Students will schedule a time to met with the course instructor either in-person or via Zoom to review their remediation plan, area(s) of weakness, and the need for post-remediation assessment.
  4. Students will demonstrate proficiency of failed course materials (as applicable) through post-remediation assessment.
    • Post-remediation assessment will be detailed on the Remediation Agreement Form developed between the student and course instructor.
    • Reassessment activities may include a self-reflection exercise, written responses to selected examination items with referenced citations, written examination, oral examination, written completion of selected course instructional objectives with reference citations, problem-based learning exercises focused on area(s) of weakness, skills assessment, or practical examination.

In the Pre-Clinical Year phase of the program, all remediation assignments must be completed prior to the start of the next term. Failure to complete remediation will constitute as failure of the course and will be subject to review as detailed in the Academic Progress Policy above.

Remediation in the Clinical Year of the program is required for failed written examinations, H&Ps and SOAP Notes, written papers, oral presentations, OSCEs, and directed practicals as follows:

PAEA End of Rotation Examination: Students will receive a performance report at the completion of each PAEA end of rotation examination in which they receive feedback on their scale score based on content area and task area.

The program has identified “content experts” among program faculty for each of the content areas covered by the PANCE and PAEA End of Rotation Examinations. Students may reach out to those content experts at any time throughout Clinical Year to schedule a time to meet and discuss their study plans for successful studying and examination preparation.

Heather: Musculoskeletal, Endocrine, Reproductive, Genitourinary
Kristi: Musculoskeletal, EENT
Larissa: Gastrointestinal, Infectious Disease, Neurology, Renal
Dr. Richard: Hematology, Pulmonary
Laura: Dermatology, Behavioral Medicine, Women’s Health
Sarah: Cardiovascular, EENT, Endocrine

Students receiving a low pass score as defined by the PA program on the End of Rotation Examination must complete remediation.

  • Students must meet with their Academic Adviser within one (1) week of score release. Program Faculty will email the student with a time and meeting link.
  • Students must perform self-reflection on their performance report to remediate the content and task areas in which they have a score below the national average
  • Review of the keyword feedback items listed on their report – due by 7 a.m. on the next Callback Day
    • For example, “Pulmonology: History & Physical, Pneumonia” would require an outline of the history and physical exam findings that are pertinent to a diagnosis of pneumonia.
  • Completion of twenty-five (25) review questions on Rosh Review or Exam Master pertinent to content and task areas in which they have scored below the national average

Students receiving a failing score as defined by the PA program on the End of Rotation Examination must complete remediation.

  • Students must meet with the Clinical Coordinator or Program Faculty Designee within one (1) week of score release. Program Faculty will email the student with a time and meeting link.
  • Students must perform self-reflection on their performance report, and will work with the Clinical Coordinator or Program Faculty Designee to develop a plan for remediation, which will be outlined in the Student Remediation Agreement Form, available in Appendix C of this handbook on the policy portal (ePass login required).
    • Review of the keyword feedback items listed on their report due by 7 a.m. on the next Callback Day
      • For example, “Pulmonology: History & Physical, Pneumonia” would require an outline of the history and physical exam findings that are pertinent to a diagnosis of pneumonia.
    • Completion of forty (40) review questions on Rosh Review or Exam Master pertinent to content and task areas in which they have scored below the national average
  • Students scoring below national average in > 5 content areas or > 3 task areas must repeat the PAEA End of Rotation Examination.
    • Students failing one End of Rotation Examination will be referred to CPC.
    • Students failing two End of Rotation Examinations will be referred to APC
    • Students failing three End of Rotation Examinations will return to APC for additional recommendations, which may include deceleration, completion of an independent study course to enhance knowledge deficits, or program dismissal.
    • Students that do not pass the repeat End of Rotation Examination will be evaluated by APC for recommendations, which may include deceleration, completion of an independent study course to enhance knowledge deficits, or program dismissal.

If a student fails an End of Rotation Examination on the final Callback Day, they must complete their remediation assignment prior to completion of the Summative Experience.

H&Ps and SOAP Notes: Students will receive recommendations for improvement of their clinical documentation from program faculty and must resubmit the H&P or SOAP note with improvements implemented. Failure to submit a corrected H&P or SOAP note by the following Callback Day will result in failure of the clinical rotation. If a student fails their clinical documentation assignments on the final Callback Day, they must make the recommended changes and resubmit the notes prior to completion of the Summative Experience.

Written Paper: Students will receive recommendations for improvement of their written reference paper from program faculty and must resubmit the paper with improvements implemented. Failure to submit a corrected reference paper by the following Callback Day will result in failure of the clinical rotation. If a student fails their written reference paper on the final Callback Day, they must make the recommended changes and resubmit the paper prior to completion of the Summative Experience.

Oral Presentation: Students who fail their oral presentation will receive feedback from program faculty and must submit a recorded presentation with improvements implemented. Failure to submit a corrected recording by the following Callback Day will result in failure of the clinical rotation. If a student fails their oral presentation on the final Callback Day, they must make the recommended changes and submit a recorded oral presentation prior to completion of the Summative Experience.

Directed Practicals: In addition to recommendations and feedback for performance improvement, students will need to meet with the Clinical Coordinator to review their performance on Directed Practical examinations. Students will need to return to campus at the discretion of the Clinical Coordinator for this to be completed. Students will have up to three (3) opportunities to successfully pass a directed practical remediation exam by the following Callback Day. Failure to pass a directed practical remediation will result in course failure.

OSCEs: In addition to recommendations and feedback for performance improvement, students will need to meet with the Clinical Coordinator to review their performance on OSCEs. Students will need to return to campus at the discretion of the Clinical Coordinator for this to be completed. Students will have up to three (3) opportunities to successfully pass an OSCE exam by the following Callback Day. Failure to pass the OSCE will result in course failure.

Professionalism Remediation

Professionalism is one of the core competencies of the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. As such, students are expected to adhere to professionalism guidelines set forth by the program as a requirement for graduation.

Students will be formally assessed once per semester using the Physician Assistant Program’s Professionalism Rubric by their faculty academic advisor and may be asked to self-evaluate using the Professionalism Rubric periodically. More frequent assessments will occur if the need arises.

  • Students with on instance of professionalism concern on an informal or formal evaluation must complete a self-reflection on the unacceptable behavior(s) identified to their faculty adviser followed by a meeting with their adviser to discuss feedback and plans for improvement. The student will then be re-evaluated on the unacceptable behavior(s) and ability to follow the remediation plan by their faculty advisor within a timeframe designated by their adviser.
  • Failure to improve the unacceptable behavior(s), follow the remediation plan established, or the presence of concerns for professional misconduct will prompt the completion of a Behavior Concern Form and referral to the College of Medicine CPC for review and recommendations for professionalism remediation.
  • A student whose performance concern includes documented lapses in professional behaviors with peers, supervisors, patients and their families, and/or teams will be referred to the APC for a comprehensive review of their academic and professional educational file.
  • Egregious acts will be referred immediately to the APC for review and may result in immediate dismissal from the PA Program. As deemed appropriate by the Program Director, students committing egregious acts may be suspended pending formal comprehensive review by the APC.

The APC will make specific recommendations to the program director, who has final authority on academic progress. A copy of this letter will be placed in the student’s file.

Student Leave of Absence Policy and Procedure Expand answer

Students requiring a significant amount of time off for any reason (greater than one week of coursework) may need to consider a leave of absence. The purpose of the leave of absence is to allow students to interrupt continuous enrollment without having to apply for re-enrollment and without changing conditions and requirements of their academic program.

  • Students may request a leave of absence from the College of Medicine’s educational programs for personal, health, or educational reasons using the
  • Leave of absence requests will be granted or denied, at the discretion of the College of Medicine’s Vice Dean for Educational Affairs or designee.
  • Except in extenuating circumstances, a leave of absence request will not be granted for a period in excess of one (1) year.
  • A student who fulfills the conditions of an approved leave of absence may register upon return without applying for re-enrollment. The student registers for courses according to the returning start dates for the courses or clinical learning experiences as applicable.
  • Students will be expected to return to the College of Medicine according to the conditions of the approved leave set forth by the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs or designee.
  • If at the end of the specified length for the leave of absence the student does not notify the Vice Dean or designee in writing of the intentions to resume formal studies, it will be assumed that the student no longer wishes to continue the educational program and has withdrawn from the College of Medicine.
  • Students requesting a leave of absence for health reasons must provide a written request from the treating health professional involved in care at the time the request is made. In addition, re-evaluation of the treating health professional and a fitness for duty confirmation must be received by the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs or designee prior to resuming studies. This fitness for duty must include the statement that the student is able from a medical/mental health standpoint to resume studies under usual and customary conditions for students in PSCOM.

Students that are unable to fulfill the Technical Standards set forth by the program will not be allowed to matriculate into or progress through the Physician Assistant Program.

Student Leave of Absence Procedure

If a student desires a leave of absence for any given reason, the student will firsts discuss the matter with their academic adviser and the program director.

The student will then schedule a meeting with the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs to discuss a leave of absence and provide rationale for the leave of absence, including supporting documentation as necessary.

If the leave of absence is approved by the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs, the student will receive official approval in writing that summarizes the conditions pertinent to the individual student’s leave and set a date by which time the student must notify the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs in writing of their intent to return as scheduled.

The student is responsible for getting all necessary signatures on the leave of absence form. Upon completion, the original copy of the form will be placed in the student’s academic file and a copy will be provided to the Registrar and the student for their records.

A request for an extension of the leave of absence must be approved by the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs. Students who believe they have special circumstances to justify extending their leave of absence may appeal by submitting a formal written request to the Academic Progress Committee who will review the student’s request and make the final decision on the extension of the leave of absence.

Student Withdrawal Expand answer

Students requiring a significant amount of time off for any reason (greater than two weeks of coursework) may need to consider withdrawing from the program given its nature and intensity. Students may submit a written request for withdrawal to the program director.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their adviser and/or the Program Director prior to initiating the withdrawal process.

Matriculation back into the PA Program may occasionally be possible, but it is not a guarantee and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Penn State University Policy on Tuition Refund

In the case that a student leaves the program prior to completing the semester, the PA program will follow the policy set forth by Penn State University, which can be found by visiting the Bursar’s Office website.

Students who withdraw from the program will receive a tuition adjustment in accordance with the Tuition Adjustment Schedule shown below:

For the purposes of this schedule, the first installment period begins with the first day of Penn State classes for the academic year (fall) and the second installment period begins on the first day of Penn State classes for the second academic semester (spring).

Student Grievance Procedures Expand answer

Grievance Procedures Overview

The Pennsylvania State University has adopted an internal grievance procedure providing for prompt and equitable resolution to complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religious creed, gender, sexual orientation or veteran status.

For further information on the discrimination grievance procedures, refer to the Penn State Affirmative Action Office web site.

Complaints should be addressed to the:

Affirmative Action Office
328 Boucke Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-863-0471
E-mail: aao@psu.edu

Grievances/complaints in this venue can be filed with the Affirmative Action Office at Penn State University at the main campus with the contact information related to the above address, phone number, and email address.

Students may report mistreatment or harassment using the Resident/Student Mistreatment Reporting Form.

View the Resident/Student Mistreatment Reporting Form

If a student believes that they have been placed in an environment where any type of harassment (including intimidation) has occurred, that student should contact the Physician Assistant Program Director or the College of Medicine Ombudspersons. All inquiries or grievances filed by the students will be investigated and resolved.

The right of confidentiality for any party involved in a harassment incident, including the complainant and the charged, will be respected insofar as it does not interfere with the university’s obligation to investigate allegations of misconduct and to take corrective action where appropriate.

Non-Academic Student Grievance Process

Both Peter Lewis, MD, and Pat McQuillan, MD, serve as ombudspersons for the Physician Assistant students. If a student believes that they have been placed in an environment where any type of harassment (including intimidation or retaliation) has occurred, that student should contact the Physician Assistant Program Director or the College of Medicine Ombudspersons. All inquiries or grievances filed by the students will be investigated and resolved.

In this capacity, they will investigate harassment and other complaints brought forward by students and work to achieve an equitable solution. The purpose of an ombudspersons is to enhance communication and clarify misunderstandings in any situation, which involves potential disputes, to provide information about possible courses of action and to help resolve issues so that they do not grow into more serious conflicts.

The ombudspersons shall “thoroughly investigate each incident brought to his/her attention taking into account all sides of the issue, counsels the involved parties or makes referral for such counseling, provides periodic reports of such incidents and their outcomes/resolution to the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs, and seeks appropriate advice from senior academic or administrative faculty when necessary to assist in resolving issues of concern.”

Harassment complaints about a student should be filed with the Physician Assistant Program Director. If the complaint is with the Program Director, the student should contact the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs. A complaint about a guest or visitor should be called to the attention of the Program Director or other appropriate program employee.

The Office of Human Resources may be contacted for counseling and assistance relating to affirmative action issues. Anyone with a question or concern about harassment is encouraged to contact one of the above offices for counsel and assistance.

Academic Student Grievance Process

Exam Question Appeals Policy and Procedure: Students having an academic-related complaint/grievance related to the quality of exam questions are first directed to the faculty member who the grievance/complaint is with. If the student feels that their complaint or grievance has not been resolved, they should contact the Physician Assistant Program Director to request a meeting. If resolution is still unreached, the student may contact the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs.

If a student challenges a test question that is delivered via CANVAS/Examplify/ExamSoft, paper/pencil, or directed practical, the student should complete the appropriate exam question appeal form. The instructor from the course will review this rebuttal and will notify the student if an alternative answer is accepted. These forms are available on the policy portal (ePass login required) and on the program CANVAS page. These forms should be submitted to the program CANVAS page dropbox titled Exam Question Appeals as soon as the test review is performed. Challenges must be completed within 24 hours of exam review.

Challenges for these questions should contain an approved reference (assigned textbooks, lecture handouts) for supporting the student’s argument. If an alternative answer is acceptable, the tests will be reviewed and all students who have an acceptable alternative answer will be awarded credit for that particular answer. If a mistake has been made on the answer key, only correct answers for that particular question will be acceptable as the correct answer. If question review identifies that this question is ambiguous or unclear, the question will be thrown out and will not be counted towards the exam grade for all students.

Grade Appeal Policy and Procedure: Based on The Penn State Faculty Senate Policy 47-20 on grades, as well as Penn State’s Academic Administrative Policies G-10, the basis for grade determination is “…the instructor’s judgment of the student’s scholastic achievement …”

College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program recognizes that there may be times in which students are dissatisfied with grades they have received and may wish to appeal a grade. Occasionally, a disagreement arises in the determination of a grade. Grade appeals may be filed on the grounds of discrimination, retaliation, capricious evaluation, or mathematical/clerical error.

In such instances, students must initiate the following process within five (5) business days of the grade posting.

  1. Students wishing to appeal a grade must first meet with the Faculty Member assigning the Grade
    • Students must complete the Grade Appeal Form and submit via email to the Faculty Member within five (5) business days of the grade posting to CANVAS or LIONPATH.
    • The Faculty Member must respond to the student within five (5) business days of email receipt (unless pre-scheduled to be out of the office) to arrange a meeting to discuss the student’s concerns and reason for appeal. Meetings must occur within ten (10) business days of email receipt (unless pre-scheduled to be out of the office).
    • The Faculty Member must respond in writing to the student within 48 hours of the arranged meeting with a decision on the student’s appeal.
  2. If a resolution is not reached, students may appeal to the Program Director.
    • Students must submit the grade appeal form via email and request to schedule an appointment with the Program Director within five (5) business days of receiving the Faculty Member’s appeal decision.
    • The Program Director must respond to the student within five (5) business days of email receipt (unless pre-scheduled to be out of the office) to arrange a meeting to discuss the student’s concerns and reason for appeal. Meetings must occur within ten (10) business days of email receipt (unless pre-scheduled to be out of the office).
    • The Program Director must respond in writing to the student within 48 hours of the arranged meeting with a decision on the student’s appeal.
    • If the Program Director is the Faculty Member assigning the grade, the student must appeal to the Academic Progress Committee.
  3. If a resolution is not reached, students may appeal to the Academic Progress Committee (APC)
    • Students must submit the grade appeal form via email to the APC within five (5) business days of receiving the Program Director’s appeal decision.
    • A representative from the APC must respond to the student within five (5) business days of email receipt to arrange a meeting to discuss the student’s concerns and reason for appeal. Meetings must occur within two (2) business weeks of email receipt.
    • The APC must respond in writing to the student within five (5) business days of the arranged meeting with a decision on the student’s appeal.
  4. If a resolution is not reached an appeal may be made to the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs.
    • Students must submit the grade appeal form via email to the Vice Dean of Educational Affairs within five (5) business days of receiving the APC’s appeal decision.
    • A representative from the Vice Dean’s Office must respond to the student within five (5) business days of email receipt to arrange a meeting to discuss the student’s concerns and reason for appeal. Meetings must occur within two (2) business weeks of email receipt.
    • The vice dean of educational affairs must respond in writing to the student within five (5) business days of the arranged meeting with a decision on the student’s appeal.
  5. If a resolution is still not reached, the final level of appeal may be made to the Dean. All decisions made by the Dean are final.
    • Students must submit the grade appeal form via email to the Dean of the Penn State College of Medicine within five (5) business days of receiving the APC’s appeal decision.
    • A representative from the Dean’s Office must respond to the student within ten (10) business days of email receipt to arrange a meeting to discuss the student’s concerns and reason for appeal. Meetings must occur within two (2) business weeks of email receipt.
    • The Dean of the Penn State College of Medicine must respond in writing to the student within five (5) business days of the arranged meeting with a decision on the student’s appeal.

Appeal of APC/Program Recommendation

Students may request, within seven (7) days of receipt of the letter, a reconsideration of the decision by writing a letter to the Program Director. The student may be extended an opportunity to present their case to the APC, after which a decision of reconsideration will be submitted to the student in writing.

The final decision of the PA program may be appealed in writing to the vice dean of educational affairs within ten (10) calendar days of the program decision. The decision of the vice dean is final.

Reference Release Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program recognizes the need for employers and educational institutions to obtain meaningful reference information from course instructors, clinical preceptors and program leadership as well as the need for a student’s written consent prior to providing information protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to third parties.

As such, the PA program requires that students provide their written consent through submission of the University’s Consent for Release of Information to Third Parties Form and the Request for Letter of Recommendation Form prior to faculty, staff, and program leadership providing a reference on their behalf that may include FERPA-protected student information to potential employers, educational institutions, or other third-parties.

Physician Assistant Oath Expand answer

The Program also endorses the Physician Assistant Oath, which was created by the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. All students are expected to uphold the precepts in the PA Oath:

  • I will hold as my primary responsibility the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings.
  • I will uphold the tenets of patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance and justice.
  • I will recognize and promote the value of diversity.
  • I will treat equally all persons who seek my care.
  • I will hold in confidence the information shared in the course of practicing medicine.
  • I will assess my personal capabilities and limitations, striving always to improve my medical practice.
  • I will actively seek to expand my knowledge and skills, keeping abreast of advances in medicine.
  • I will work with other members of the health care team to provide compassionate and effective care of patients.
  • I will use my knowledge and experience to contribute to an improved community.
  • I will respect my professional relationship with the physician.
  • I will share and expand knowledge within the profession.

Program Completion

Program Completion Overview Expand answer

Requirements for graduation are formulated by the Penn State College of Medicine and are strictly adhered to by the Physician Assistant Program.

Graduation Requirements Expand answer

Graduation requirements for Physician Assistant Students include the following:

  • Enrollment in the program for the time period specified by the program and approved by accrediting body for completion
  • Satisfactory completion of all curricular requirements in good academic standing
    • Cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher
    • No course or rotation grades below a “C” or “Low Pass”
    • Repeat and receive a “C” or higher in any course or rotation in the program for which a grade of “F” was earned.
  • Attainment of good professional standing
  • Successful completion of all components in the summative experience
  • Meet or exceed the minimum requirements for clinical experiences and competencies.
  • Recommendation for graduation by program faculty
  • Satisfactory fulfillment of all financial obligations to the Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State University
Utilization of PACKRAT Expand answer

Following completion of the Pre-Clinical Year curriculum, students will have a semester break followed a transition week of activities prior to the start of Clinical Year training. Students will sit for the national in-training examination known as “PACKRAT”, which is a practice examination intended to assist students in identifying their own strengths and areas in need of improvement.

Following completion of the PACKRAT, students will have an opportunity to reflect on their performance and receive advising from the program about their performance.

Although strongly recommended, students are not required to complete this examination as the results do not influence a course grade or progression through the PA Program.

Summative Experience Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program requires the completion of a summative assessment for all students near the end of their education as a means to determine a student’s readiness for graduation.

The summative experience will evaluate each student in the following areas:

  • Medical Knowledge
    • Summative written examination including 300 questions on all areas taught within the program following the PANCE blueprint model.
    • OSCEs
    • Management of acute emergencies in Simulated Patient Scenarios
  • Interpersonal/Communication Skills
    • Written assignment on population health and team care
    • Evaluation of implicit bias and education with assessment
    • OSCEs
  • Clinical and Technical Skills
    • Management of acute emergencies in Simulated Patient Scenarios
    • OSCEs
    • Clinical skill assessment
  • Professionalism
    • OSCEs
    • Written reflection on quality improvement
    • Written assignment on population health and team care
    • Evaluation of implicit bias and education with assessment
  • Clinical Reasoning and Problem-Solving Abilities
    • Management of acute emergencies in Simulated Patient Scenarios
    • Completion of

Successful completion (70% of greater) and/or remediation of all components of the summative experience is required prior to graduation.

Overview of Pre-Clinical Year Education

Attendance Policy Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine recognizes the incredible time commitment of the pre-clinical year phase of the program and understands that many students will greatly benefit from the opportunity to have a day off from their didactic studies without risking their academic success and ability to meet the program’s technical standards.

Unless otherwise noted in course syllabi, attendance for pre-clinical year is mandatory for laboratory sessions, team-based learning activities, practicals, examinations and interprofessional events. At the discretion of the course instructor, some classes will be recorded. Publication of class recordings will permit students to view lecture material after presentation if the student was not present in-person.

Students are responsible for obtaining, reviewing, and submitting any materials or assignments from missed days. Violation of any of the above is considered unprofessional behavior and subject to review in accordance with the program’s professionalism policy.

Students are expected to attend all program required ceremonies/events.

Students in pre-clinical year may be excused for up to 2 (two) religious holidays. Students must inform the program of the requested dates, using the form for excused absence requests. Students missing laboratory sessions or testing must place this request at least two (2) weeks in advance with make-up date/time at the discretion of the course instructor.

School Closures and Delays Expand answer

In the event of inclement weather requiring the cancellation of classes, information will be detailed on the PSU Alert website.

As deemed necessary by Course Instructors, class time may be converted to on-line learning/zoom sessions. Students will be notified of this change in course delivery via CANVAS announcement.

Dress Code Guidelines Expand answer

Students may dress in accordance with their gender identity and gender expression, but must dress in a way that meets the following guidelines:

  • Students display their identification badges at all times
  • Students do not wear open-toe shoes/sandals in laboratory or clinical settings
  • Students will not wear heavy fragrances, perfumes or colognes
  • Students will not wear fishnet stockings, crop-tops or other see-through clothing
  • Students will not wear suggestive or revealing clothing
  • Students will not display undergarments while wearing clothing
  • Students will not wear sunglasses, hats or caps in the building, unless for religious reasons

For anatomy dissection laboratory sessions, students will be issued scrubs to wear. The procedure for obtaining and returning these scrubs will be provided in more detail during the anatomy course.

Students are expected to dress professionally for all sessions that involve working with actual or standardized patients. Professional attire includes:

  • Khakis, slacks, dress pants
  • Dresses or skirts of an appropriate length
  • Blouses, sweaters or collared shirts and ties
  • Closed-toed shoes
Equipment and Supplies Expand answer

Stethoscope: All students will be gifted a stethoscope by the Office of Alumni Relations that meets the requirements of the PA Program. If students choose to utilize a different stethoscope than the one provided, it must include a separate bell & diaphragm.

Tromner Reflex Hammer: All students will be gifted a Tromner Reflex Hammer by the Office of Alumni Relations that meets the requirements of the PA Program.

Medical penlight: All students will be gifted a medical penlight by the Office of Alumni Relations that meets the requirements of the PA Program.

Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff): Students should purchase an adult cuff with sphygmomanometer (approximately $25)

Tuning forks: 128Hz and 512Hz tuning forks (approximately $10-15)

Hand-held/pocket eye chart: (approximately $5-10)

Retractable tape measure: Small tape measure (approximately $5)

Watch: Stop-watch or wrist watch with a second hand (approximately $25-100)

Flexible ruler: Two (2) 6” flexible plastic rulers (approximately $2)

Students may choose to purchase an otoscope and ophthalmoscope for their own personal practice at home, however, this is not a PA program requirement as students will have access to these items in the SIM lab and clinical practice areas. Therefore, these items will not be included in the annual estimated costs for attendance.

Student Evaluations of Courses, Faculty, Staff and Program Expand answer

We strive to create high-quality courses and we expect that students will provide feedback to the faculty who teach in the course, as well as to the course directors in the form of course and faculty evaluations. The evaluations are reviewed by course directors, faculty, Curriculum Evaluation Sub-Committee, as well as the curriculum management committee (PAMPEC) to determine strengths and identify opportunities for improvement.

As part of the Professionalism competency domain, we expect you to follow conscientious behaviors expected of a developing health professional by providing constructive comments regarding areas of strength and opportunities for improvement of this course for future students. Course and faculty evaluations will be administered anonymously to all students at the end of the course via “OASIS.” Guest lecture evaluations will be administered anonymously immediately following the lecture. While we will track who has completed course and faculty evaluations, neither ratings nor comments can be tracked back to students.

Overview of Clinical Year Education

Purpose Expand answer

The purpose of the clinical year education is to provide the student supervised exposure to the practice of medicine in specific disciplines and settings. Through these experiences students will integrate didactic year training into the clinical context.

Clinical Site Assignment Policy Expand answer

Students may not solicit their own clinical sites or preceptors, or trade preceptorships with other students. Students may, however, assist in communication with potential clinical preceptors to facilitate the program establishing affiliation agreements or clinical rotation site opportunities.

The assignment of students to clinical rotation sites is the responsibility of the clinical coordinator. There are a number of factors that influence student placement into clinical rotation sites; including student performance, student interest in a particular specialty, and site/preceptor capacity. Changes to clinical site assignment will only occur in extreme situations such as site cancellation, a serious issue that cannot be resolved for all parties, or a student/preceptor emergency. All changes to clinical site assignments will be made solely at the discretion of the clinical coordinator and the program director.

Student requests to change the location of a clinical site must be submitted in writing at least two (2) months in advance of the clinical rotation and must be addressed to the clinical coordinator. Students will then schedule a meeting with the clinical coordinator to discuss their request. The clinical coordinator will then discuss the request with the program director as applicable. Students will be notified in writing within three (3) days of meeting with the clinical coordinator.

Only requests demonstrating significant hardship, emergency, or a violation of the Penn State University Code of Ethics Policy will be considered. Students may be requested to provide supporting documentation from their healthcare provider demonstrating the need for a change in clinical rotation site.

Elective Selection

Elective rotations are designed to provide the physician assistant student with an elective opportunity in any of the previous rotation specialties, or in a rotation designed by the student, in conjunction with the clinical coordinator, to enhance the student’s knowledge or skill in a specific specialty area. The Physician Assistant Program cannot guarantee placement in any electives, but will work closely with students to identify their strengths and professional goals for employment upon graduation to provide each student with an opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge, and experience needed for graduation.

Request for the Development of New Clinical Sites

Students may not develop or arrange their own clinical rotation sites as the assignment of students to clinical rotation sites is the responsibility of the clinical coordinator. Students with an interest in a particular specialty or students that present additional opportunities for establishing clinical rotation sites outside of the Penn State Health system may communicate their recommendations in writing with the clinical coordinator. Following submission of this recommendation, the program will contact the site, speak with potential preceptors, evaluate the site’s suitability for student education, and (as appropriate) develop an affiliation agreement with the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.

Student requests for the development of new clinical sites must occur at least 12 weeks prior to the date of their scheduled clinical rotation and may not be at a site in which their family, friends or personal physicians are employed unless otherwise agreed to in advance by the program.

Submission of a request for a new clinical site does not guarantee placement of the student in that rotation site, and determination of site viability is made solely at the discretion of the PA Program.

Student Expectations on Clinical Rotations Expand answer

Students should participate in clinical rotations as active learners. Throughout their clinical rotations, Physician Assistant students shall be considered an extension of their specific preceptors and are permitted to perform tasks delegated to them with supervision. Although the specific role of the Physician Assistant student will vary from rotation to rotation, there are certain broad guidelines that should be followed by all preceptors, clinical faculty, clinical sites, and students.

Students are not permitted to substitute for paid medical staff during clinical rotations.

Communication

Communication with the College of Medicine and PA Program: Students must check their Penn State University e-mail for announcements at least once per day.

Communication with the clinical coordinator: Students must contact the Clinical Coordinator immediately if areas of concern are identified while on clinical rotations surrounding the professional, academic, clinical or other aspects of the clinical training site. Students must also provide written documentation to the program of any issues encountered for a formal program review.

Students may contact the clinical coordinator at any time with questions or concerns.

Students can expect regular contact between the program and students or preceptors by telephone and/or email to relay messages, arrange site visits, or to obtain feedback on student performance. This communication is intended to foster dependable relationships and provide a mechanism for informal monitoring of the teaching, learning, and evaluation processes at various rotations sites.

At the completion of the second week of each clinical rotation, students must complete and submit the Student Progress Report, which describes the student’s general progress at the clinical site and provide a study plan to the Clinical Year team for the remainder of the clinical rotation. Students should upload completed forms to CANVAS.

Communication of safe arrival at the clinical site: Students must submit the following information to the Education Program Assistant for the Clinical Year (Lori Schrekengast) via CANVAS dropbox by Friday on the first week of each clinical rotation.

  • Confirmation of safe arrival at the clinical site.
  • Name of direct preceptor, preceptor’s phone number, pager number, and/or email.
  • Confirmation of daily schedule for the upcoming clinical assignment

Professionalism

  • Students are expected to practice professional ethics. Patient issues and/or the conduct of a physician’s practice should never be discussed with another physician, student, or other person outside of the practice, including on social media sites
  • Students are required to participate in all activities as designated by the preceptor.
  • Students must comply with all policies and procedures of the clinical site.
  • Students will not, under any circumstance, disclose any patient information. Program-related discussions or presentations will be in a learning format so that the patient and/or clinical site cannot be identified.
  • Students will sign their name followed by either Physician Assistant Student, or PA-S in all medical documentation. The preceptor or attending must countersign the student’s SOAP notes and H&P exams.
  • Students will state their full name followed by either Physician Assistant student or PA-S and the name of the physician preceptor when utilizing a medical dictation system.
  • If representing themselves as a Penn State College of Medicine PA student, the student is not permitted to spend their own time with physicians or other health care providers who are not preceptors. Shadowing outside your clinical rotations is strongly discouraged.
  • Any student with a personal mobile phone should keep it on “vibrate” or silent mode if it is essential that they have it at the clinical site.
  • Students may not engage in a financial, romantic or sexual relationship with any preceptor that may be able to evaluate or influence the student’s grade
  • It is an expectation of the program that students will need to develop:
    • An understanding of legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the appropriate role of student and practicing Physician Assistants
    • An appreciation of professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers
    • Respect, compassion, and integrity
    • Responsiveness to the needs of patients and society
    • Accountability to patients, society, and the profession
    • Commitment to excellence and ongoing professional development
    • Commitment to ethical principles pertaining to provision or withholding of clinical care, confidentiality of patient information, informed consent, and business practices
    • Sensitivity and responsiveness to patients’ culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disabilities
    • Self‐reflection, critical curiosity, and initiative

Conduct

  • Students will be under the supervision of the clinical preceptor or a designee at all times while conducting clinical activities (office hours, hospital/nursing home rounds, home visits, on-call, etc.).
  • Students are expected to follow the preceptor’s practice office hours, and may be required on site for evenings, weekends, or immediately before or after a holiday.
  • Students are required to arrive 10 minutes prior to the start of their assigned shift. Failure to arrive 10 minutes prior to the start of the shift will be considered late and may be reflected in preceptor evaluations.
  • Penn State College of Medicine student name tags must be worn during all patient encounters, without exception.
  • Physician Assistant Students must properly identify themselves at all times as Physician Assistant Students.
  • Students will follow and adhere to the guidelines and directions of the preceptor regarding all aspects of patient care, including HIPAA regulations.
  • Preceptors will be notified immediately by the students regarding any absence or lateness from clinical duties. The Clinical Coordinator must also be notified by students of any absence from the clinical site prior to absence. Failure to do so may result in a disciplinary action.
  • Students are not permitted to function in settings outside of the preceptor’s practice unless approved and supervised by the preceptor. The Clinical Coordinator must be notified in such instances.

In addition to the above outlines for professionalism and conduct, the following guidelines are to be followed during all clinical rotations and at all sites:

  • Students are expected to conform to the laws, rules and regulations and by-laws of the state, hospitals and/or office practices in which they are being trained.
  • Students may perform such evaluations, examinations, procedures and patient education that the supervising preceptor is willing to train, approve and supervise and which are a part of the preceptor’s scope of practice.
  • The student may complete prescriptions and other forms necessary in the healthcare of the patient—which then must be countersigned by the preceptor. No student is permitted to carry pre-signed forms or prescription slips.
  • The student is permitted to examine, document, offer treatment plans and encourage health promotion and disease prevention plans to the patient, in accordance with the medical practice policies and procedures. No patient may leave the care of the practice or hospital until evaluated by the preceptor after evaluation by the student.
  • Students at clinical sites are required to carry their HIPAA, CPR, ACLS & Immunization records with them to their sites.
  • Any questions regarding the scope of practice for the student must be addressed to the preceptor and to the Clinical Coordinator.
  • Students at clinical sites who benefit from housing provided by the clinical site must abide by the housing guidelines, policies, and procedures outlined by the clinical site or organization that provides the housing, i.e., cleaning.

Guidelines for Clinical Rotations and Preceptors:

  • Students are expected to complete the clinical year with the foundation of medical knowledge, clinical skills, professional behavior, and values to serve the public and uphold the principles of the Penn State College of Medicine PA Program, and the PA profession.
  • During clinical rotations, students learn the body of knowledge and clinical skills of each specialty within the framework of the health care team and the PA role. Clinical rotations will promote the monitoring of student performance in a manner that will afford the preceptor and the PA Program a continuous and objective assessment of the student throughout their practical training.
  • Preceptors shall strive to develop clinical rotations that serve as a mechanism by which the PA student continues to learn as they practice. This formal mechanism can provide a means of continuing education for clinical preceptors by giving the student feedback on their performance.
  • The PA Program provides structured learning activities and timely feedback to students during the clinical year. However, the guidance and supervision of the clinical preceptors helps students progress to higher levels of clinical responsibility as their skills and confidence develop. Students take increasing responsibility for their education, developing the skills to provide patient care, function in a team approach, adjust to changes in the health care system, practice evidence-based medicine and become lifelong learners.

Dress Code Guidelines

Students must be clearly identified in the clinical setting to distinguish them from other health profession students and practitioners. In order to comply with this accreditation standard, students are expected to wear their PA Student Identification badges at all times during clinical rotations.

Proper Attire: Both as a student physician assistant and graduate practitioner, one encounters a variety of patients from diverse cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. In order to establish a professional and trusting relationship with those patients, and to decrease the potential for offense or discomfort to patients, a standard of professional grooming and clinical attire is required. A healthcare professional’s dress and appearance are essential in establishing a relationship of trust and confidence. In some cases, this requires that individual personal attire preferences be balanced with the need for effective patient interaction. As a student, and soon-to-be medical professional, patients’ needs come first – even at the expense of individual expression.

The following attire guidelines are required in all student clinical educational settings:

General Standards

  • Good personal hygiene is to be maintained at all times. This includes regular bathing, use of deodorants/antiperspirants, and regular dental hygiene.
  • Avoid perfume or cologne (they may cause allergic reactions in patients or peers).
  • Clothes in good repair, cleaned, and allow for adequate movement (not tight) for clinical training and patient care.
  • No midriff tops, halters, translucent or transparent tops, shirts or tops with low-cut necklines or tank tops.
  • Garments that show the trunk with movement should not be worn.
  • Undergarments should not be visible, even with movement. Examples include, but are not limited to: thongs, bra straps, boxer shorts or camisole.

Hair

  • Should be neat … when in doubt, wear it back.
  • Shoulder length hair must be secured to avoid interference with work or patient care.
  • Natural human color.
  • Beards are acceptable, but must be neatly trimmed.

Nails

  • Muted tones of nail polish. No nail polish in the OR.
  • No artificial nails and/or nail tips.

Shoes

  • Comfortable, clean and in good repair. No open toed shoes.
  • Clogs are acceptable.
  • Hiking boots are acceptable in the winter.
  • Clean sneakers with scrubs are acceptable only in the surgical or laboratory settings.

Jewelry

  • No facial piercing.
  • No excessive jewelry (to decrease risk of cross-infection; or may be pulled by angry or confused patients).
  • The following are permitted: a watch, up to three rings, small earrings of either small hoops or studs (large earrings are distracting and may be pulled through the ear), academic pin(s), other pins, badges or insignias which represent an award or health care message, minimum of bracelets and necklaces or chains (up to two (2) each).

Within the clinical settings where students and patients interact (Emergency Department observations, hospitals / clinics, rotation sites) the following additional professional attire will be required unless otherwise designated by the clinical preceptor (Example: Pediatrics or Behavioral Medicine settings may require more casual attire).

All Students:

  • White lab jacket (short) with appropriate student identification.
  • Professional attire (khakis, slacks, or dress pants; blouses or collared shirts and ties; dresses or skirts of an appropriate length.)
  • Students are reminded that low cut shirts, t-shirts, short skirts, jeans or open-toed shoes are not considered professional attire.
  • Scrubs are permitted on certain rotations as deemed appropriate by the preceptor.

Failure to comply with the dress code will result in a written warning. Additional occurrences will result in completion of a behavior concern form and referral to the CPC due to professionalism concerns.

Clinical supervisors, preceptors, and Physician Assistant faculty reserve the right to dismiss any student from a clinical or educational site, when not appropriately attired. Dismissal from a clinical or educational site will result in referral to the APC for a comprehensive review.

Documentation Requirements for Clinical Compliance

  • Approved clinical rotation sites frequently require information about those students who will participate in training at their facilities for the protection of their patients and personnel. Clinical sites have the right to decline acceptance for training of students who do not comply with the provision of such information required by individual clinical training sites.
  • Students must submit clinical compliance requirements by the published due date
  • If not received, the student will be considered non-compliant and will not be permitted to progress in the clinical year.
  • The requirements for each site are available to students in OASIS and should be checked and completed by the student 30 days prior to the rotation start.
  • Any questions regarding specific requirements or difficulty with submission of them should be directed to the Clinical Year Education Assistant, Lori Schreckengast at lschreckengast1@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.
  • If a student cannot meet all of a clinical site’s requirements, the Program will attempt to identify an alternative placement
    • If alternative sites that will accept the student cannot be found, the student’s completion of the program may be delayed or made impossible.

BLS/PALS/ACLS Requirements

  • Students must have active Basic Life Support (BLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certifications from the American Heart Association (AHA) prior to beginning clinical rotations. Certification will be offered between the completion of the Pre-Clinical Year and Clinical Year phases of the program for all students enrolled in the PA Program.

Student Documentation Guidelines

  • As an academic medical center, the Information Technology division at Hershey Medical Center has developed a “medical/physician assistant student” notes section which allows for students to make electronic entries into the patient files for review by the clinical preceptor.
    • This portion of the EMR is not legally binding and is not an official part of the patient file when viewed from a legal perspective.
    • Preceptors can then read student entries and make comments on these files for the purposes of teaching and learning.
  • Outside of Hershey Medical Center, student access to office and health system electronic medical record (EMR) systems will depend on the clinical site in which they are assigned.
    • Regardless of access to an EMR system, students are expected to be practicing documentation of patient encounters to ensure that they are able to perform independent documentation and should seek out feedback from their preceptors on the notes they have completed.
    • When these records are available to them, students must follow the protocol for accessing and data entry in these medical sites since this access is at the discretion of the clinical site and preceptor.
  • Current Medicare guidelines for student contact and documentation with patient encounters state:
    • “Students may document services in the medical record. However, the documentation of an evaluation and management (E/M) service by a student that may be referred to by the teaching physician is limited to documentation related to the review of systems and/or past, family, social history. The teaching physician may not refer to a student’s documentation of physical examination findings or medical decision making in his or her personal note. If the student documents E/M services, the teaching physician must verify and re-document the history of present illness as well as perform and re-document the physical exam and medical decision-making activities of the service.”
    • Physicians may not write “agree with above.”
    • Students may not perform consults on their own.
    • Students may not perform the services of a scribe.

Maintenance of Patient Database

Upon graduation, students will have the advantage of creating a personal portfolio in any specialty, by code/procedure/surgery for all patients seen during clinical year. This is a significant benefit to students entering the workforce as a new graduate to demonstrate the depth of involvement, volume of experience, and achievement of clinical competencies throughout a student’s education.

As a requirement for the completion of clinical year, ALL patient encounters are to be logged according to the OASIS system. Failure to maintain adequate maintenance of your patient encounters, diagnoses evaluated/treated, and procedures performed may delay graduation.

Students are expected to review their patient logs with their clinical preceptors prior to the completion of the clinical rotation and preceptor evaluation.

Patient logging submissions are required to be submitted prior to 7:30 a.m. on the Monday after a Callback Day. Incomplete entries and/or failure to have entered all patients by this time will result in a grade point deduction from the student’s documentation grade for that rotation.

  • Inaccurate documentation (omitting pertinent patient information-age, sex, diagnosis, etc)
  • Students will have a 5-point grade deduction for each inaccurate log
  • Incomplete documentation (omitting patients from logging that were seen in rotations)
  • Students will have a 10-point grade deduction for each incomplete log
  • Not done (no patients, or minimal patients logged)
  • Students will receive a ZERO for each omitted log

Repeat occurrences will result in referral to the CPC due to professionalism concerns.

Students are expected to log into OASIS on each clinical day. Students must submit accurate and records through all electronic entries in compliance with the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program Academic Integrity Policy. Falsification of patient logging will result in referral to the APC and may result in program dismissal.

Technical Difficulties: Students should attempt to troubleshoot technical difficulties using the OASIS troubleshooting guide first. If unsuccessful, students should contact Lori Schreckengast or Heather Matchik.

Student Site Visits

The program reserves the right to visit students and clinical sites at any time during the clinical phase of the program.

Site visits will be conducted for new clinical rotation sites, and on an as needed basis for students. Student-related site visits will consist of an evaluation of Physician Assistant student performance and interactions with the patient and their preceptor. During the site visit, students will perform appropriate histories and physicals, present cases to their preceptors, and be responsible for answering questions regarding the problem asked by the faculty member.

An unsatisfactory site visit may necessitate additional site visits. Reasons which may necessitate a second site visit includes

  • Unsatisfactory performance by students
  • Interruption of patient-student encounters by staff, physicians, etc
  • Inability to evaluate student-patient interaction
  • Unprofessional behavior

Failure to perform satisfactorily during second site visits may result in the referral of a student to the APC.

Attendance Policy Expand answer

The Clinical Year of the Physician Assistant Program does not follow the Penn State University/Penn State College of Medicine Academic Calendar and may require weekend, evening, and holiday attendance at clinical rotation sites per the schedule developed by clinical preceptors.

Attendance for all clinical rotations is mandatory unless otherwise approved by the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program using the Absence Request Form. Submission of the Absence Request Form does not guarantee approval of an excused absence. Students are expected to be present at their clinical sites as scheduled by their preceptors. Vacation and study days are not permitted.

Students should arrive ten (10) minutes prior to the start of their shift unless otherwise instructed by the clinical preceptor.

School Closures and Delays

Students on clinical rotations are excepted to follow the schedule that their preceptor has established. If the clinical site office/practice has closed due to inclement weather, the student must call or email the clinical coordinator to report a change in their schedule.

Absences

Students must contact the clinical coordinator to report absences before 8:30 a.m for scheduled day shifts and 8:30 p.m. for scheduled night shifts. In the event that a student leaves a rotation early, the student must notify the clinical coordinator within one (1) hour of leaving the clinical site.

Preceptor-directed absence: In the event that clinical preceptors will not be at their clinical site for personal reasons and cannot designate delegates to supervise students for that period of time, students are to contact the clinical coordinator immediately. The Program will assign asynchronous learning activities for the student to complete that correlate to the clinical rotation in which they are present. If the preceptor absence will be for an extended period of time, students may be reassigned to a different clinical rotation site to facilitate adequate clinical exposure.

Excused Absences: Students may have one (1) absence per clinical rotation for sick leave per rotation that will not need to be made up. Absences of greater than one day will require addition of additional clinical time to ensure adequate clinical exposure. Students with illnesses requiring an absence of three (3) or more consecutive days requires a written excuse from the licensed health care provider rendering their treatment.

Students in the clinical phase of the PA Program are allotted a maximum of ten (10) sick leave days for the year or three (3) sick leave days in any given rotation. Students that exceed this volume of absences may be required to repeat the entire clinical rotation if an issue with the ability to meet all of the program’s technical standards is identified.

Students who are ill, hospitalized or incapacitated in some way that affects their ability to safely and satisfactorily perform their duties in a clinical setting need to provide official medical clearance that clearly states their ability to return to clinical rotations without restrictions prior to returning to the clinical site. Failure to report these health-related changes is considered unprofessional behavior that puts yourself, other healthcare providers, and patients at risk. Students will be reviewed by the CPC with sanctions that may include up to dismissal from the PA Program.

Failure to notify the preceptor and/or Clinical Coordinator will be considered an unexcused absence.

Unexcused absences: Unexcused absences are considered unprofessional behavior and subject to review in accordance with the program’s professionalism policy.

For the first occurrence of an unexcused absence, the student will be referred to the Competency Progress Committee (CPC) for review. Recommendations from the CPC may include sanctions up to and including Professional Probation.

For the second occurrence of an unexcused absence, the student will be referred to APC for review. Recommendations from APC may include sanctions up to and including dismissal from the PA Program.

Bereavement leave: Students requesting bereavement leave are required to submit the absence request form to the clinical coordinator prior to leaving their clinical rotation site. Submission of the absence request form does not guarantee approval.

Procedure for verifying make-up shifts: Students are required to obtain written documentation from their clinical preceptor that any clinical shifts missed in excess of one (1) per rotation have been made up. This documentation must be provided on facility letterhead, signed by the clinical preceptor, and submitted to the program as part of the return paperwork process following each clinical rotation.

Failure to submit written verification of clinical hour completion will result in an unexcused absence.

Holidays and Religious Observations

Federal holidays: At the discretion of the preceptor, students on clinical rotations may have off on the following Federal Holidays:

  • Memorial Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day

Religious Holidays: Students may be excused for up to 2 (two) religious holidays during the clinical year. Students must inform that clinical coordinator of the requested dates, using the form for excused absence requests.

It is the responsibility of the student to submit these requests no later than noon on the Friday of Transition Week, so they can be built into student schedules and sent to preceptors immediately.

Interview Days

Requests for an interview day during clinical year must be submitted using the absence request form. Submission of the absence request form does not guarantee approval for the interview absence.

All efforts should be made by the student to schedule interviews around current rotation hours. In the event that students are unable to do so, they are allotted a total of three (3) interview days during the clinical year phase of the PA Program. Students must make up the missed time in clinical rotations prior to the day of absence. No more than one (1) interview day may be used per clinical rotation.

Students may not use an interview day during callback day activities, exams, remediation activities or summative activities.

Dismissal from a Clinical Site Expand answer

Clinical preceptors are responsible for notifying the program if problems arise with a Physician Assistant student on clinical rotations. Students may be removed from their clinical site assignment at the request of the clinical preceptor. Students exhibiting unprofessional or unacceptable behavior that negatively impacts patients, staff, students, or others is grounds for immediate removal of the student from the rotation.

Documentation regarding incidents while at clinical sites will be obtained by the program from the preceptor and will remain part of the student’s academic file.

Dismissal from a clinical site is considered grounds for immediate suspension from the PA program pending an investigation into the offense(s). The student will then be referred for formal review by the APC.

If removal from the clinical site is unfounded by APC, the student will be moved to another site without any adverse consequences to the student.

The following inappropriate, unprofessional and threatening behaviors are considered grounds for dismissal from the PA program and possibly the University:

  • Insubordination
  • Illicit drug use
  • Writing unauthorized prescriptions
  • Forgery of any kind
  • Theft
  • Working under the influence of alcohol
  • Actions that may result in legal action against the student by the clinical site or University
  • Falsifying medical records
  • Submitting falsified documentation to the program for grading
  • Consistent failure to complete assignments or meet deadlines
  • Unprofessional behavior
  • Illegal activities while enrolled in the program
  • Inability to demonstrate a positive and constructive attitude, emotional stability, and/or maturity
Completion of Clinical Rotation Passports Expand answer

Clinical rotation passports must be completed for each rotation and encompass different competencies that are expected during each clinical year experience. Completion of the clinical year passport must be performed by clinical preceptors to demonstrate student mastery of specific diagnostic skills, competencies, and diseases processes that have been observed and performed proficiently according to the Penn State College of Medicine and Physician Assistant Program Standards.

The goal of utilizing rotation passports is to encourage bedside teaching and feedback, enhance the involvement of students in patient care, improve exposure to clinical skills, and enhance the exposure of students to various faculty while on clinical rotations.

Students must upload the clinical rotation passport to CANVAS prior to Callback Day for each rotation and submit a hard copy to Lori Schreckengast by 7:30 a.m. on Callback Days. Los or misplaced passports may be reconciled on a case-by-case basis.

All core procedures and skills must be signed off by clinical preceptors/college of medicine faculty prior to graduation.

Failure to submit the clinical rotation passport by the deadline following a clinical rotation may result in referral to the CPC due to professionalism concerns. Repeat occurrences will result in the completion of a behavior concern form and referral to the APC for recommendations.

Preceptor Evaluations Expand answer

Students will receive an evaluation from their clinical preceptors following each 4-week clinical rotation that will be completed via OASIS during week four of the clinical rotation.

Often, students may find that their schedule more closely aligns with providers other than their assigned clinical preceptor. In this case, the clinical preceptor may complete a collective evaluation on behalf of the team that has worked closest with the student or the student may request that the evaluation be completed by the provider with whom they have spent the most time. Students must ensure that the Clinical Year Team has an updated preceptor name, credentials, and email address by emailing Lori Schreckengast no later than week three (3) of the clinical rotation.

Prior to leaving the clinical rotation site, students are required to ensure that their evaluation has been completed and notify the clinical coordinator if they have met difficulty in evaluation completion. Students should share their patient logging with clinical preceptors and review the results of their evaluation with their clinical preceptors to receive feedback on strengths and areas in need of improvement.

Callback Days Expand answer

Attendance at Callback Day is mandatory. Students should anticipate being at the College of Medicine from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the completion of each clinical rotation, all students will return to the Penn State College of Medicine for participation in Callback Day. During this time, a series of direct and indirect assessments on student achievement of rotation learning outcomes and program graduate competencies will be performed.

The following items must be completed and returned to the Clinical Year Team before 7:30 a.m. on each Callback Day:

  • Student evaluation of the clinical site and preceptor—online
  • Case presentation paper and PowerPoint (if applicable) — uploaded to Canvas
  • Remediation questions (if applicable) — uploaded to Canvas
  • ID badges from other clinical sites not otherwise returned to the clinical site
  • Pagers—turned off

It is the student’s responsibility to verify completion of all paperwork due for each Callback Day. Paperwork that is submitted after the time indicated will not be acknowledged or accepted and will result in a zero for that portion of the Callback Day assignment grade.

Attendance

Students are not permitted to miss Callback Day unless a written request demonstrating a significant life emergency or hardship is submitted to the clinical coordinator. All requests will be reviewed by the department and students will be notified in writing of the decision within three (3) days of the Department meeting. If the absence is approved, students will be required to fulfill the educational goals of Callback Day at another time as arranged by the student and clinical coordinator.

Students who are absent from Callback Day activities due to illness must submit a note from the health care provider treating their illness within 48 hours of the absence. Students will be required to fulfill the educational goals of Callback Day at another time as arranged by the student and clinical coordinator.

Students who miss any mandatory component of Call Back Day activities without prior notification and approval will receive a zero for assignments/examinations that were missed and will be reviewed by the CPC. Sanctions may include up to dismissal from the program for professionalism related concerns and the inability of students to meet the program’s technical standards.

Callback Day Assignments

Written Examination: Written examinations for students begin promptly at 7:30 a.m. Students will have 90 minutes from the start time to complete the written examination unless accommodations are granted in advance by the disability coordinator.

Oral and Written Case Presentations: During the completion of clinical year, students must satisfactorily perform three (3) case presentations that contain both a written and oral component. Each student will perform one case presentation per term, unless remediation is necessary. At least one (1) presentation must be ethically based, with the other two on an approved medical or surgical topic of interest.

Topic Approval: Students must submit their topic to the Clinical Coordinator via CANVAS dropbox to obtain topic approval prior to Friday of the third week of the rotation in which oral presentations are assigned. The case presented must be one that the student either personally saw or directly participated in care of and should be represented in student logging.

Oral Component: A HIPAA-compliant oral case presentation must include the utilization of PowerPoint as a reference, which is uploaded to the appropriate CANVAS dropbox prior to 7:30 a.m. on Callback Day. Students will have ten (10) minutes to present their case and be prepared to answer questions about the case. Points awarded and deducted as noted in the rubric, which can be found on CANVAS.

  • Ethical Case Presentations should include a brief description of the patient, pertinent history, physical examination findings, and a detailed discussion of the ethical dilemma present.
  • Medical and Surgical Case Presentations should include a brief description of the patient, pertinent history, physical examination findings, pertinent laboratory and radiographic findings. A brief discussion should ensure about the management of the patient and the outcome. The disease or dilemma should then be discussed with the class and the student presenter should be prepared to answer questions about the case or disease presented.

Written Component: The written portion of the case presentation should be a five-to-ten page, HIPAA compliant paper. A brief summation of the patient’s case or ethical dilemma should be presented followed by elaboration on the disease entity or ethical background information.

Students should follow the guidelines presented in the rubric, which can be found on CANVAS for formatting and grading expectations of the written paper.

No exceptions will be made for late submissions, and a grade of zero will be recorded to late assignments.

Directed Practical Examinations: Students will be given a clinical case scenario with a standardized patient and will be evaluated on their ability to think critically, perform a directed physical examination, and verbally present a brief assessment and treatment plan inclusive of patient education and follow-up to the exam proctor.

Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs): During OSCE scenarios students will utilize a standardized patient to obtain a history, perform a physical examination, formulate a differential diagnosis, order appropriate diagnostic tests, diagnose the patient, and provide appropriate treatment. Rubrics for OSCE grading will be placed on CANVAS. During an OSCE scenario, any acts of patient harm will result in automatic failure (failure to ask allergies prior to prescribing medications, administration of tPA to a patient with a hemorrhagic stroke, etc)

Advising Sessions: Students must meet with their academic advisers at least one (1) time per term.

Student Evaluations of Clinical Sites, Courses, Faculty, Staff, Preceptors and Program Expand answer

We strive to create high-quality courses and we expect that students will provide feedback to the faculty who teach in the course, as well as to the course directors in the form of course and faculty evaluations. The evaluations are reviewed by course directors, faculty, Curriculum Evaluation Sub-Committee, as well as the curriculum management committee (PAMPEC) to determine strengths and identify opportunities for improvement.

As part of the Professionalism competency domain, we expect you to follow conscientious behaviors expected of a developing health professional by providing constructive comments regarding areas of strength and opportunities for improvement of the clinical rotation sites for future students.

  • Course and faculty evaluations will be administered anonymously to all students at the end of their rotations via “OASIS.”
  • Guest lecture evaluations will be administered anonymously immediately following the lecture.

While we will track who has completed course and faculty evaluations, neither ratings nor comments can be tracked back to students.

Infection Control and Prevention

OSHA and Blood Borne Pathogen Exposure Expand answer

The OSHA Blood-borne Pathogen Standard applies to all occupational exposures to blood or other potentially infectious materials, including, but not limited to:

  • Human blood and blood products and body fluids;
  • Contaminated sharps;
  • Microbiological sticks and cultures;
  • Equipment which contacts any of the above is also considered potentially infectious.

Because the potential for infection exists, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all human blood and body fluids be treated as if they were known to be infected with HIV, HBV, HCV, or other blood-borne pathogens. These precautions, also known as “Standard Precautions”, represent an infection control procedure that assumes that all body fluids and body materials are potentially infectious.

The Blood-Borne Pathogen Policy for Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program closely complies with the most current evidence contained within the SHEA (Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America) guideline and CDC Recommendations for Management of Medical Students who are infected with Hepatitis B Virus. This policy also discusses the guidelines for students with other blood-borne pathogens, including Hepatitis C Virus and Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

The Physician Assistant Program Faculty will:

  • Provide education and training to all students in appropriate methods to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases, including blood-borne pathogens as consistent with the CDC’s guidelines for standard and additional precautions.
  • Maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible regarding information disclosed by students concerning their serological status and disclose relevant information only with appropriate consent.

Students must successfully complete the OSHA review and examination before any patient contact is initiated.

Students are:

  • Aware that they will be required to participate in the care of patients with various communicable diseases or infections including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.
  • Required to comply with the College of Medicine blood-borne pathogen policies and requirements.
  • Ethically and professionally responsible for knowing their serological status with respect to blood-borne pathogens and to inform Student Health and the Associate Dean for Medical Education if they are positive for a blood-borne pathogen infection. Confidentiality concerning the student’s state of health will be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
    • Disclosure may be necessary if there is reason to believe that the infected individual has declined or has failed to follow the provisions of this policy in regards to personal notification of appropriate personnel or fails to respond within a reasonable amount of time to a recommendation that they personally notify the person in charge of a particular clinic or department.
  • Expected to be in a state of health such that they may participate in the academic programs, including patient care, without posing a risk to themselves or others.
  • Obligated to comply with hepatitis B immunization policies and requirements as outlined by the College of Medicine and Student Health. This policy requires that all students receive the hepatitis B vaccine and have positive serologies on subsequent quantitative serology titers.
  • Mandated to comply with the Communicable Disease Protocol as outlined by the College of Medicine according to the most current CDC recommendations
  • Required to use standard precautions and additional practices in order to prevent the spread of blood-borne pathogens and other infections.
    • Always wash hands thoroughly between patient encounters using soap and water or antibacterial agents. Hand washing should be done before and after each patient encounter with a “wash in, wash out” procedure.
    • Students should assume that all body fluids or blood are infectious regardless of the patient’s diagnosis. Non-latex gloves should be worn at all times when handling potentially infectious material, or when there is a possibility of being exposed to, blood or body fluids. In situations where a risk of splashing of blood or body fluids exists, additional personal protective equipment such as goggles, gown, and masks should be worn. Students are responsible for supplying their own goggles at clinical sites and should bring them with them when on clinical rotations.
    • Gloves should be changed between all patient encounters. Hands should be washed after removal of gloves.
    • Never attempt to bend or recap needles. These should be properly disposed of in an approved “Sharps Container” directly after use. Most affiliated healthcare facilities are using the “needle-less” delivery system for IVs and heparin locks. The student should become familiar with these systems. Please notify the program if a clinical site is not conforming to these OSHA standards.
    • Pocket masks or Bag-Valve-Mask devices should ideally be used in performing artificial ventilation.
    • Spills of blood and body fluids should be cleaned with a detergent solution followed by decontamination with an appropriate chemical germicide such as Clorox (Sodium Hypochloride 5.25%), dilute 1:10. If this is not available, rope off the area and contact the environmental services department at the site.
    • Infectious waste and sharps should be disposed of in the appropriate containers. Never place these in the regular trash.
    • Any student who sustains an incident at the clinical site where exposure to blood or body fluids occurs will follow the protocol established at that site. If an exposure occurs, the student should alert the Preceptor and the PA Program staff immediately so that appropriate measures may be taken. An incident report must be completed and submitted to the clinical coordinator within 24 hours of the incident. Incident Report forms are available from the PA office staff. We will be following the same protocol as the College of Medicine with regard to exposure and reporting of these incidents.
    • Appropriate respiratory protective masks should be worn when caring for patients with Tuberculosis. Fit masks will be supplied for each student prior to their attendance at clinical sites.
    • Never pick up broken glassware with your hands; always use a dustpan and brush or tongs. Dispose of broken glass in the proper receptacles. Use the biohazard containers if the glassware is contaminated.
    • Follow all Infection Control and Isolation Precaution policies and procedures of the institution in which you are working.
    • If you have any questions regarding Infection Control, please ask your preceptor or contact the Infection Control Department at the site (if available).
  • Required to disclose if they are potentially exposed to a blood-borne pathogen in a clinical setting and provide a blood specimen (if indicated)

Physician Assistant Students Potentially Exposed to a Blood-Borne Pathogen are:

  • Required to seek medical attention immediately after the event for HIV rapid testing and post-exposure prophylaxis, if indicated
  • Required to report and document the occurrence using the Student Exposure Form
  • Required to follow post-exposure testing and treatment as outlined in the Sharps Injury/Blood and Body Fluid Exposure Policy.

Physician Assistant Students Infected with Blood-Borne Pathogens:

  • Are professionally and ethically obligated to inform Student Health and the Associate Dean for Medical Education of any blood-borne infection.
  • May pursue their studies as long as their continued involvement does not post a health or safety hazard to themselves or others, which may require modification to their program of study to reduce risks of blood-borne pathogen transmission.
  • Must be offered advice and counseling that will assist them regarding clinical practice and career choices.
  • Are required to immediately disclose if they accidentally expose a patient to their blood-borne pathogen in a clinical setting.
    • Pre-notified to patients is not suggested or required.
  • May have clinical duties or exposure modified, limited, or abbreviated based on recommendations from an expert review panel as outlined in the CDC guidelines
  • Are aware that an expert review panel will review and monitor their condition at the request of the Associate Dean for Medical Education, keeping the name of the student as confidential as possible. The expert review panel will include the Associate Dean, an infectious disease and hospital epidemiology specialist, liver disease specialist with expertise in blood-borne pathogens and their infectivity, the Student Health Director, a person with bioethics experience, and legal counsel. The expert panel will:
    • Advise the student to apply for ADA status based on their medical condition, which then allows the panel to design necessary accommodations to prevent students from participating in exposure-prone procedures, such as those encountered in surgery or OB/GYN, without jeopardizing their medical education.
    • Designate contact personnel within departments that perform exposure-prone procedures to communicate in regards to applicable restrictions that may apply according to CDC guidelines
    • Develop a plan of counseling and advice to assist the student regarding clinical practice and career choices. This information will be discussed with the student by the Associate Dean of Medical Education and/or the Director of Student Health.
    • Evaluate the student’s status and continued testing and/or treatment as indicated in this policy.
  • Have the right to appeal decisions made by the Associate Dean or Expert Panel in writing as a proposed amendment to the decision and the rational supporting such an amendment. The student may submit additional documentation from their personal physician or other health care provider in support of their appeal.

Students should present their insurance to be billed for the initial work-up. Any costs (co-pays or deductibles) incurred from this initial visit should be forwarded to the Student Health Nurse for reimbursement. All follow-up care must then occur with the Student Health Center.

  • Post-exposure follow-up care (deductibles and co-pays) will be covered by Penn State University for blood drawn at 6 weeks and 6 months.
  • If the initial plan includes prophylactic therapy, the student’s co-pay will be reimbursed by the Penn State University to cover the cost.
  • The College of Medicine will assure the financial responsibility for treatment of HIV exposure and prophylaxis as well as conversion to a positive PPD.
Sharps Injury Procedure Expand answer

In the event that a student is involved in an invasive incident with a needle or scalpel containing another person’s blood or body fluid, the following procedures should be followed.

View the Student Health Procedure for Sharps Injuries

Exposure while at Hershey Medical Center or University Physician Group Site:

Exposure at Unaffiliated Clinic Sites or Other Institutions:

  • Report injury/exposure to the supervising physician. They are responsible for source testing.
  • Follow the institution/hospital’s established policy for exposure.
  • Report to the emergency department.
  • Fill out the Intake of Sharps Injury or Blood/Body Fluid Splash questionnaire.
  • Students should seek care immediately after the incident.
  • Follow-up with Student Health at 717-531-5998 on the next business day.

Students should present their insurance to be billed for the initial work-up. Any costs (co-pays or deductibles) incurred from this initial visit should be forwarded to the Student Health Nurse for reimbursement. All follow-up care must then occur with the Student Health Center.

  • Post-exposure follow-up care (deductibles and co-pays) will be covered by Penn State University for blood drawn at 6 weeks and 6 months.
  • If the initial plan includes prophylactic therapy, the student’s co-pay will be reimbursed by the Penn State University to cover the cost.
Chemical Hazard Exposure Expand answer

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) devised the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to ensure that information about chemical and toxic substance hazards in the workplace and associated protective measures are disseminated to workers via Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

Hazardous Chemicals: any chemical classified as a health hazard or simple asphyxiate in accord with the Hazard Communication Standard.

Students exposed to chemical hazards in classroom laboratories must notify Program Faculty immediately during Pre-Clinical Year, or their Clinical Preceptor followed by the Clinical Coordinator if the exposure occurs during Clinical Rotations. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be readily available wherever chemicals are used. The student is responsible for identifying the location of the MSDS information sheets as part of their orientation to each clinic/hospital site where they are rotating.

Students must complete the Student Exposure Form following exposure. Post-exposure care is dictated by the type of chemical exposure.

Students are strongly recommended to have an evaluation performed by a healthcare provider following any chemical exposure. The protocols set forth at non-Penn State Health clinical sites will supersede those set forth by the College of Medicine and students should follow the directions given by their preceptor.

Students are responsible for all costs related to care and treatment.

Communicable Disease Exposure Expand answer

Communicable diseases are those diseases that are caused by an infectious agent that is spread from person-to-person. The CDC identifies reporting cases of communicable diseases as an important aspect of the planning and evaluation of disease prevention and control, a pathway for assuring the distribution of appropriate medical care/treatment, and a way to detect outbreaks.

Students are required to have fit testing and PAPR training prior to the start of clinical rotations.

If exposure occurs during pre-clinical year, students must immediately notify the Program Director following exposure. If exposure occurs during Clinical Rotations, students must immediately notify the Clinical Coordinator.

Exposure to certain diseases (such as tuberculosis or measles) may result in the temporary cessation of in-person learning or clinical rotations. In this case, the students will work directly with Program Faculty and/or the Clinical Coordinator to make arrangements for the completion of program coursework.

Students exposed to communicable diseases should be evaluated by a healthcare provider at the Student Health Office during hours of operation, by their family healthcare provider, or at the Emergency Department. Recommendations surrounding the communicability of the disease will be managed by Department of Health recommendations on a case-by-case basis.

Students must complete the Student Exposure Form following exposure. Post-exposure care is dictated by the type of chemical exposure.

Students are strongly recommended to have an evaluation performed by a healthcare provider following any chemical exposure. The protocols set forth at non-Penn State Health clinical sites will supersede those set forth by the College of Medicine and students should follow the directions given by their preceptor.

Students are responsible for all costs related to care and treatment.

COVID-19 Precautions Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine Senior Leadership Team continues to work closely with Student Health Services and Penn State Health Infectious Disease Experts to update testing and quarantine guidelines for students based on new CDC recommendations and the availability of rapid antigen tests. As new information becomes available and guidance changes for student and patient safety, updates to this policy may occur.

Students in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or those that have a high-risk exposure with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should follow the guidelines below:

Exposed Students

Pre-Clinical Year Students:

  • Fully vaccinated and boosted (out two weeks from booster):
    • Not required to quarantine
    • Advised to do a home self-test on day three (3) and between days 5-7 to avoid false negative tests
    • If a positive result is obtained at any time, students should isolate and notify Student Health at 717-531-5998.
  • Unvaccinated or vaccinated without a booster:
    • Must quarantine for five (5) days (Day 1 starts the day after exposure)
    • Contact Student Health at 717-531-5998 to obtain a rapid antigen test
    • Test on Day 5
      • If asymptomatic and test negative, students may return with strict masking (no eating or drinking around others), social distancing, and monitoring of symptoms for an additional five (5) days.
      • If positive result is obtained, students should isolate and notify Student Health at 717-531-5998.

Clinical Year Students:

  • Fully vaccinated and boosted (out two weeks from booster):
    • Not required to quarantine
    • Contact Student Health at 717-531-5998 to obtain a rapid antigen test
    • Must have a rapid test on day two (2) and between days 5-7 to ensure not positive at any time.
      • If negative, can continue with educational activities.
      • If positive, notify Student Health and follow isolation guidelines
  • Unvaccinated, vaccinated without a booster, or prior infection greater than 90 days:
    • Must quarantine for five (5) days (Day 1 starts the day after exposure)
    • Contact Student Health at 717-531-5998 to obtain a rapid antigen test
    • Must test negative on days two (2) and between days 5-7 to ensure not positive at any time.
      • If negative, can continue with educational activities.
      • If positive, notify Student Health and follow isolation guidelines

Symptomatic Students

Students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should follow these guidelines:

  • Contact Student Health at 717-531-5998 and isolate until test results are available.
  • Do not come to campus or to the Student Health Office as it could put others at risk.
  • Students should order a saliva-based PCR COVID-19 test through Vault Health which can be self-administered over a Zoom visit.
    • Positive Result:
      • Students who test positive for COVID will be required to isolate for ten (10) days, unless noted below, before returning to campus.
      • Students must isolate regardless of their vaccination or booster status. Day 1 begins the day after testing positive.
      • Students who are fever-free for 24-hours without fever-reducing agents, and either asymptomatic or vastly improved may test on day 5 and if negative, may return to educational activities on day 6 with strict masking and distancing for the next 5 days.
    • Negative Result:
      • Students who test negative can return to educational activities.
      • Continue to mask, physically distance and monitor symptoms for an additional 5 days. If symptoms continue, an additional test is recommended.
      • We also ask that students do not participate in social activities or eat unmasked with each other during this 5-day period.

Unvaccinated Students with Accommodations

Students who are unvaccinated and have an approved accommodation in place will continue to have to test weekly for COVID- 19 throughout the spring 2022 semester. Testing is provided here.

COVID-19 Tests are available through Vault Health to have on-hand should they be needed should COVID symptoms begin or exposure occur. We would recommend ordering a supply of COVID saliva-based tests to have on-hand. Up to 4 tests are available monthly, and tests can be ordered through Vault Health here.

Student Services

Academic Advising Expand answer

All students enrolled in the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program will be assigned an academic adviser from the point of matriculation through graduation. The objectives of the program’s academic advising program are to help advisees obtain the maximum benefit from their educational experience by encouraging involvement in both in-and-out of class educational opportunities that promote self-directed learning and decision making.

Students are required to meet with their academic adviser at least once every semester.

Academic Support and Student Services Expand answer

The Penn State College of Medicine’s Cognitive Skills Program (CSP) provides comprehensive cognitive skills development and learning support to our medical, graduate, and Physician Assistant students.

The CSP offers workshops, interactive learning sessions, and individual support for exploring content, processes, and thinking skills to maximize our students’ success. The CSP serves all students in the College of Medicine by providing programs to help promote effective and efficient life-long learning. The CSP also provides remediation services for students who are struggling academically.

Programs are provided throughout the year based on student needs and interests, including:

  • Study skills sessions, such as time management, studying and test-taking strategies
  • Remediation and support for learning
  • Strategies for content boosting
  • Using technology to enhance learning
  • The learning process and effective strategies for learning
  • Collaboration and approaches for successful group learning

Through these and other engaging and transformative program offerings, students can learn how language, thinking and metacognition directly impact their knowledge and understanding.

The CSP supports and empowers all students in developing essential skills, provides opportunities for applying these skills to relevant content, and guides students in implementing strategies for success at the College of Medicine.

To schedule a meeting, email Rhonda Mudry, PhD, MS, at rmudry@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

Computing Access Expand answer

The Harrell Health Sciences Library partners with Information Services to provide walk up IT support Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the library service desk.

For technical support, contact the IS Service Desk at 833-577-HELP (4357) or via email at help@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

View Information Services information on the Infonet (Penn State Health ePass login required).

Counseling Services Expand answer

The Office for Professional Mental Health (PMH) is designed to meet the needs of the Penn State College of Medicine professionals with compassion, honesty, and confidentiality. Services are available to students both in person and virtually.

The PMH Office is located within the Penn State College of Medicine in Suite C1746.

Appointments should be made by contacting the PMH office at 717-531-8658 or via email at PMH@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

Options for Crisis Situations available 24/7/365 include:

Should any faculty identify a mental health concern about a student, the student will be referred to the office for professional mental health immediately. If no one from the office is available, the student will be encouraged to call the Dauphin County Crisis Hotline or visit the Emergency Department.

Students experiencing a life-threatening emergency should call dial 8888 if on-campus, and 911 for off-campus emergencies, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Library Resources Expand answer

Students, faculty, and staff at Penn State College of Medicine and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center enjoy free, unlimited access to the Harrell Health Sciences Library resources.

The library is open every day with 24-hour badge access to the library commons.

Librarians are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays), or by appointment, to provide one-on-one assistance with research.

Printing, scanning, and copy services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

View details on the Harrell Health Sciences Library website

Student Safety and Security Expand answer

While at Penn State College of Medicine or Penn State Health Sites: The Penn State College of Medicine Department of Security upholds its mission to provide for the protection of the lives, well-being and property of patients, students, visitors, and employees at the College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center campus by providing 24-hour security services.

To reach the 24-hour security dispatcher, students can call 717-531-8711 from an external line or dial 8711 from an internal line.

While at off-site Clinical Rotation Sites: Safety and security remains essential for students throughout clinical year, regardless of clinical rotation site location. Routine site visits are conducted by the program to evaluate the safety of students and faculty at all clinical sites.

If an incident were to occur while on clinical rotations in which you feel a sense of immediate danger, clearly communicate your distress, remove yourself from the area, and call 911. If at any point you feel unsafe while at your clinical rotation site, the clinical coordinator should be notified immediately.

All concerns or allegations that question the safety of a student in a clinical rotation site will be investigated promptly by the Physician Assistant Program or a College of Medicine Designee.