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Technical Standards for PA Program Admission, Academic Progress and Graduation

The technical standards for the Penn State College of Medicine PA Program have been established to ensure that candidates can 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 PA Education Association (PAEA), and the American Academy of Physician Associates (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 PA Program is committed to creating a respectful, accessible, and inclusive learning environment for all students and does not discriminate based on 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 accommodation is encouraged to contact the Diversity, Equity and Belonging (DEB) Office or speak with the College of Medicine’s Student Advocacy Specialist.

All candidates, with or without reasonable accommodation, are required to meet the technical standards described herein; including patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice. These technical standards must be maintained from matriculation to graduation from the 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, to be able to integrate, analyze, and synthesize data in a consistent and accurate manner of 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 verbal and non-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 to 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 of patients to 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 to provide a reasonable explanation for likely diagnoses, 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 and reflect on one’s 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 Studies 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.

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