5 Things You Can Expect Out of Your Postgraduate Physician Assistant Degree Curriculum

In order for a postgraduate physician assistant (PA) degree program to become and remain accredited, its curriculum must meet or exceed a number of standards. These standards are designed so that aspiring physician assistants are best prepared to enter the field and treat patients. Periodically, these standards are revisited to ensure that they are best serving the profession, the professionals, and the healthcare system. Most recently, the standards were updated in January of 2020. Here are five things you can expect out of your accredited physician assistant program curriculum, though this is not an exhaustive list:

Inclusion of Both Didactic and Clinical Skills Learning

Any accredited postgraduate pa program will include didactic content as part of its curriculum, which means it will involve a teaching style where professors give lessons to students. This will give you the opportunity to build the strong foundation of medical knowledge that is critical when serving patients. Unlike the socratic method, which is a questioning based method of teaching that elicits the information needing to be learned from the student, didactic learning begins with an explanation of the material to be learned. Given the nature of medical knowledge, the importance of didactic learning as part of your preparation as a PA is easy to see.

Any accredited program will also involve practice experiences and clinical skills development in order to prepare you to become a professional in the field. The standards state that the program needs to prepare you, the PA trainee, for clinical practice relevant to the program’s specialty. You will need to complete real world experiences in order to gain the hands-on knowledge that you need in order to become a successful professional.

Clear Learning Outcomes

There should be no question as to what your learning objectives will be for any postgraduate PA program that you enroll in, as it is required that you are provided a written document listing such outcomes. Through this document, you will be guided on how you will acquire the competencies needed to practice as a PA. The outcomes will be measurable so that students are clear on what competencies they need and what level of performance is required of them. By knowing this information clearly, you can better ensure that you are learning what you need to learn in order to practice as a professional.

Your PA Program Will Have Equivalency Across Locations

When you enroll in a PA program from an institution that offers the program in separate locations or through multiple delivery methods, the accreditation of the institution ensures that no matter where you are completing the postgraduate physician assistant program, curricular content, experiential learning, and clinical and didactic resource access will be equal. Whether you are learning online, reporting to the main campus, or taking class at a satellite location, you will be getting the same quality education that you are expected to receive from your chosen institution.

Clinical Sites Will Be Selected for You

Accredited PA postgraduate programs are responsible for selecting clinical sites for trainees, so that it is ensured that both the sites and preceptors instructing the trainees meet the program requirements. The available experiences must be of enough variety to adequately prepare you to meet learning outcomes. If you are interested in online programs, you will want to gain an understanding as to where their programs of interest might be able to place you geographically. You will not be required to secure your own placement sites, but there may be geographical limitations as to where the available sites may be located. If you are dead set on staying in a certain area, make sure you know what the limitations are going in!

A Variety of Topics Will be Included in Your PA Program Curriculum

Accredited postgraduate PA programs are required to prepare you, an aspiring PA, to care for diverse populations. This includes but is not limited to racial diversity, cultural diversity, and economic diversity and includes required learning about disparities in care between populations. Curriculums must also discuss patient care quality, patient centered care, and interprofessionalism, as well as the performance improvement method, which is a means of improving healthcare outcomes within institutions. Education on ethics is also required as is content related to evolving clinical and biomedical sciences. Interpretation and evaluation of literature as well as its implications for individualized care must also be part of the curriculum. Any accredited program will teach you all of these things!

Want to learn more about curriculums for a traditional physician assistant master’s degree? Learn more in our article about PA program curriculums.