Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree MS in Physician Assistant Studies

Department Chair Darci L. Brown, MSPAS

Faculty

Jennifer L. Arnold, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies, BS Hahnemann University; BS Arcadia University; MHS Drexel University

Darci L. Brown, Assistant Professor, BS Buffalo State College, MSPAS Arcadia University

Abigail Davis, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies, BS, MS Marywood University

Stanley J. Dudrick, Professor, BS Franklin and Marshall College, MD University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Diane McAvoy, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies, BS King’s College, MS A.T. Still University

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) degree at Misericordia University is an intensive 24-month, year-round program designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree and meet other entrance requirements or are enrolled in the BSMS 3+2 program.

Misericordia University’s Bachelor of Science in Medical Science (BSMS) 3+2 program provides students with nationally-normed science prerequisites for pursuing physician assistant education. The program engages students in a sequence of specialized, medically-based courses that provides strong preparation for work in a physician assistant studies program at the graduate level. Freshman students are accepted to the BSMS program each fall in cohorts of 20. To receive the BSMS, students complete a curriculum of 125-131 semester hours.

Progression from the third year of Misericordia University’s Bachelor of Science in Medical Science to the didactic year of the proposed program is open to matriculants of the undergraduate curriculum who have met, or will have met, by the end of the summer semester prior to fall semester didactic year coursework and the pre-requisites listed.

Professional Phase:

The first (or didactic) year, is comprised of basic medical and clinical sciences that prepare students to enter the clinical, or second, year. In the clinical year, students perform nine five-week clinical clerkships in a variety of professional settings and geographic locations throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states, to ensure that they amass a wide range of learning experiences.

Working directly with patients under professional supervision, students learn to evaluate and treat medical problems in ambulatory medicine, long-term care, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, women’s health, and emergency medicine. In a classroom setting, students also prepare for entering the PA profession, including successful completion of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and successful completion of an objective standardized clinical examination (OSCE) in order to demonstrate competency in interpersonal skills, comprehensive physical examination skills and professional bearing.

Delivered in on-campus laboratories as well as off-campus supervised clinical settings, the new curriculum is coordinated with relevant practice to provide students an integrated learning experience. The curriculum is aligned with national norms articulated by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), in its Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education, 4th edition.

Mission

The mission of the Misericordia University Physician Assistant program is to provide opportunities for exceptional students to acquire the highest quality cognitive education and training experience in an atmosphere of academic excellence. Graduates will achieve their maximum potential as able, caring, compassionate, competent, idealistic professionals. The program’s educational environment will promote an ethos of service, responsibility, morals and ethics, a quest for excellence, and an avid desire for self-directed lifelong learning in a spiritually enriched environment, while preparing students to apply evidence-based knowledge.

Vision statement

  • Program graduates will exhibit honesty, communication skills, dedication, self-discipline, initiative, resourcefulness, and judgment as collaborating clinical practitioners.
  • Program graduates will be dedicated to their patients and communities, showing respect for the dignity, worth, and rights of others.
  • Program graduates will serve with integrity, accountability, and trust as leaders in an evolving profession.
  • Program graduates will serve as advocates and innovators dedicated to augmenting, complementing, and advancing the quality, accessibility, and transformation of the healthcare system.
  • Program graduates will develop skills in scientific inquiry and aspire to diverse roles such as PA education , leadership, and research.

Program Goals and Outcomes

The following are program goals for graduates of the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) curriculum:

Goal 1: Develop the ability to perform a complete physical examination and to organize, integrate, interpret, and present clinical data in a clear, concise manner.

Goal 2: Support effective and sensitive communication with patients.

Goal 3: Develop critical thinking and evaluative skills.

Goal 4: Develop effective communication and teamwork skills with healthcare teams.

Goal 5: Provide a comprehensive approach to normal human health and development, both physical and mental.

Goal 6: Provide an explanation and demonstration of the skills needed to assess core diseases encountered in primary care.

Goal 7: Integrate diagnostic assessment skills with knowledge of patient presentation, pharmacology, and health care subspecialties to synthesize appropriate treatment plans.

Goal 8: Promote cross-cultural and socioeconomic sensitivity, confront prejudice, and support the development of effective medical practice in a diverse society.

Goal 9: Promote a commitment to provide effective, accessible, continuous, comprehensive, and personalized health care.

Goal 10: Emphasize the fundamental importance of ethical behavior in medical practice.

Goal 11: Promote teaching of patients, community, and colleagues.

Goal 12: Participate in the generation of new knowledge in medicine, whether through research, health policy administration, or as distinguished practitioners.

Goal 13: Develop cutting edge knowledge of the Physician Assistant profession and participate as leaders at the local, state, and national level, shaping future policy and legislation to promote Physician Assistant practice.

Goal 14: Apply knowledge of study designs and statistical methods to the appraisal of clinical studies and other information on diagnostic and therapeutic effectiveness, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients’ health problems.

Goal 15: Apply knowledge of basic science concepts to facilitate understanding of the medical sciences.

Goal 16: Demonstrate competency in basic clinical procedures performed by a graduate Physician Assistant.

Goal 17: Upon graduation, be prepared to enter the workforce as a gainfully employed Physician Assistant with excellent job search skills and the knowledge to obtain and maintain licensure in any state to practice as a Physician Assistant.

Upon completing the Misericordia University Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, graduates are expected to be able to:

MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE

Evaluate etiologies, risk factors, underlying pathologic process, and epidemiology for medical conditions

Identify signs and symptoms of medical conditions.

Select and interpret appropriate diagnostic or lab studies.

Manage general medical and surgical conditions to include understanding the indications, contraindications, side effects, interactions, and adverse reactions of pharmacologic agents and other relevant treatment modalities.

Identify the appropriate site of care for presenting conditions, including identifying emergent cases and those requiring referral or admission.

Identify appropriate interventions for prevention of conditions.

Identify the appropriate methods to detect conditions in an asymptomatic individual.

Differentiate between the normal and the abnormal in anatomic, physiological, laboratory findings, and other diagnostic data.

Appropriately use history and physical findings and diagnostic studies to formulate a differential diagnosis.

Provide appropriate care to patients with chronic conditions.

INTERPERSONAL AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Use effective listening, nonverbal, explanatory, questioning, and writing skills to elicit and provide information.

Appropriately adapt communication style and messages to the context of the individual patient interaction.

Work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals as a member or leader of a health care team or other professional group.

Apply an understanding of human behavior.

Demonstrate emotional resilience and stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity and anxiety.

Accurately and adequately document and record information regarding the care process for medical, legal, quality, and financial purposes.

PATIENT CARE

Work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals to provide patient-centered care.

Demonstrate caring and respectful behaviors when interacting with patients and their families.

Gather essential and accurate information about their patients.

Make informed decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions based on patient information and preferences, up-to-date scientific evidence, and clinical judgment.

Develop and carry out patient management plans.

Counsel and educate patients and their families.

Competently perform medical and surgical procedures considered essential in the area of practice.

Provide health care services and education aimed at preventing health problems or maintaining health.

PROFESSIONALISM

Understanding of legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the appropriate role of the physician assistant.

Professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers.

Respect, compassion, and integrity.

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, and disabilities.

Self-reflection, critical curiosity, and initiative.

PRACTICE-BASED LEARNING AND IMPROVEMENT

Locate, appraise, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients’ health problems.

Apply knowledge of study designs and statistical methods to the appraisal of clinical studies and other information on diagnostic and therapeutic effectiveness.

Apply information technology to manage information, access online medical information, and support their curricular activities and life-long learning.

SYSTEMS-BASED PRACTICE

Use information technology to support patient care decisions and patient education.

Interact effectively with different types of medical practice and delivery systems.

Understand the funding sources and payment systems that provide coverage for patient care.

Advocate for quality patient care and assist patients in dealing with system complexities.

Apply medical information and clinical data systems to provide more effective, efficient patient care.

Admission Requirements

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) degree is open to applicants who have earned, or will earn, by the end of the summer semester prior to fall semester entry, a baccalaureate degree and have met, or will have met, by the end of the summer semester prior to fall semester entry, the following prerequisites:

  • An earned bachelor’s degree with an overall cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0.
  • A minimum average of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 in required pre-requisite courses.
  • A minimum of 3.0 average on a 4.0 scale in the sciences as figured by Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
  • Ability to fulfill any university admission requirements.
  • Successful completion (as defined above) within ten years prior to admission of the following undergraduate science courses with laboratory components, to total 48 or more semester hours:
    • General Biology I and II
    • General Chemistry I and II
    • Anatomy and Physiology I and II
    • Microbiology
    • Organic Chemistry I and II
    • Biochemistry
    • Three Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry or Psychology elective courses.
    • An exception MAY be granted for a course over ten years old where there has been utilization of the relevant knowledge within the applicant's employment - at the discretion of the Program Director only.
    • Completion of the GRE.
    • Submission of a letter of recommendation from a healthcare provider (MD, DO, PA, or NP).
    • Successful completion of an interview with and positive recommendation from program principal faculty.
    • Satisfactory Level 1 Criminal Background Check and Drug Screen.
    • Demonstration to program principal faculty of ability to meet the following technical standards:
      • Sufficient capacity for observation in academic, clinical, and other medical settings; functional vision, hearing, and tactile sensation sufficient to observe a patient’s condition and perform procedures regularly required during a physical examination.
      • Effective written and verbal communications skills sufficient to both academic and healthcare settings.
      • Sufficient motor function to carry out movements necessary for patient diagnosis and care; for free movement in patient care and between facilities and buildings in academic and healthcare environments; physical stamina to complete didactic and clinical coursework.
      • Sufficient intellectual ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize, in the context of medical problem-solving and patient care.
      • Sufficient emotional health and stability required for exercising good judgment and promptly completing all academic and patient care responsibilities.

Other Academic Standards and Policies

1. All students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better to remain in good program academic standing.

2. Students must receive a minimum grade of C in all MSPAS courses during the didactic year. If the student earns a course grade below C this will result in the student being suspended. If the student earns less than a C in more than one course at any point in the didactic year the student will be dismissed permanently. Students wishing to repeat a course must petition the Program Director. Permission is at the discretion of the Program Director and this decision is final. If permission to repeat a course is granted, the course will be taken the following academic year.

3. 3. If the student earns a grade below C in a clinical rotation, they must petition the Program Director and complete the additional rotation at the end of the scheduled program delaying their graduation. If a student earns a grade below C in more than one clinical rotation, this will result in the student being permanently dismissed from the program. Permission to repeat a course is at the discretion of the Program Director and this decision is final.

4. The academic standing of each student will be reviewed at the end of each academic semester.

5. For students whose academic status is not consistent with program/course expectations, faculty members will submit mid-semester warning in accordance with university-designated dates and procedures.

6. Violation of the Honor Code, Code of Ethics and/or Program or University Policies in any way may be subject to reprimand depending on the severity of the violation.

7. Students whose academic status is not consistent with program/course expectations at the end of a semester may be subject to the following:

Sanctions

Students who fail to meet the academic standards outlined may be subject to academic sanctions including academic probation, suspension, establishment of a learning contract, and/or dismissal.

Program Probation

Grounds for being placed on academic probation include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to maintain a cumulative GPA above 3.0;
  • Course failure;
  • Lapses in professionalism.

Academic Probation

A student with a cumulative GPA below 3.0 will be placed on academic probation and receive a letter from the Program Director stating such. This written notice of probationary status will also include a notice that failure to reach the required 3.0 cumulative GPA by the end of the following academic semester will result in his/her dismissal from the program.

A student may only be on probation for two separate terms throughout the entire program – a third term resulting in a cumulative GPA below 3.0 will result in automatic permanent dismissal from the program. This decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Each student on probation is required to meet with the Program Director and academic advisor by the end of the second week of the probationary semester to develop and agree to-in writing-an Academic Improvement Plan (AIP). The AIP may include mandatory study/advising sessions, or other stipulations aimed at encouraging and supporting student success. A copy of a student’s AIP will be maintained in his/her advising folder, and a copy will also be forwarded to the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Learning Contract

A learning contract is a document employed by the program in cases in which a student’s performance fails to meet expected standards. The contract describes how a student’s performance has been deficient and outlines steps that should be taken to remediate a deficiency or improve performance. . The student's advisor can implement a learning contract at any point during the didactic year. The stipulations and recommendations for the student’s academic improvement will be described on this document. A copy of this document will be signed by the student and faculty member. This contract will remain in the students file until graduation. During the clinical year a learning contract will be initiated if the student does not achieve certain numerical benchmarks in the formative and summative examinations which are part of the PANCE preparation system. Learning contracts may be established independently of or in addition to one of the above sanctions. Failure to comply with the conditions established in a learning contract constitutes grounds for further disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Academic Suspension

A student may be placed on Academic Suspension for:

  • Receiving a grade of less than C in any class
  • A breach of professionalism
  • A violation of the Code of Ethics
  • A breach in Academic Integrity
  • A violation of the Student Code of Conduct as defined by the University
  • Being dismissed from a clinical rotation for any reason

Students, who have been suspended from the program for any reason, including violation of professionalism or academic policy, must apply in writing for readmission to the Program Director prior to the fall semester of the next academic year. Students may be required to audit courses, repeat coursework, or pass written and/or practical examinations to demonstrate competence before returning to the program. Readmission is at the discretion of the Program Director and this decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Program Dismissal

Grounds for program dismissal include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Failure to raise the cumulative GPA above 3.0 at the completion of two academic program semesters of probation (this includes the summer session)
  • Achieving grade less than C in more than one course
  • Failure to meet conditions established in a learning contract
  • Lapses in professionalism*

*Students are subject to the university’s Student Code of Conduct found in the Student Handbook

Student Grievance Policy

For Student Grievance Policy please refer to the University Student Handbook.

Evaluations

The MSPAS program does not award or grant advanced placement.

Curriculum

Delivered in on-campus laboratories as well as off-campus supervised clinical settings, the MSPAS curriculum is coordinated with relevant practice to provide students an integrated learning experience. The first (or didactic) year is comprised of basic medical and clinical sciences. The second (or clinical) year includes nine five-week clinical clerkships in a variety of professional settings and geographic locations, to ensure that students amass a wide range of learning experiences.