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Technical Standards

Regarding: Abilities and skills required of a candidate for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS).

A candidate for the MPAS degree as a Physician Assistant shall have abilities and skills in the areas of observation, communication, motor function, conceptual and analytical thinking, and normative behavioral and social attributes. Technological accommodations can be made for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but the role of the Physician Assistant in the delivery of health care necessitates that he/she shall be able to perform in an independent manner.

  1. Observation: The candidate shall be able to observe demonstrations in the basic sciences. A candidate shall be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation necessitates the functional use of the senses of vision and touch which are enhanced by the functional use of the sense of smell.
  2. Communication: A candidate shall be able to speak, to hear, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity, and posture, and perceive nonverbal communication. A candidate shall be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. Communication includes not only speech, but reading and writing. Candidates shall be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written form with members of the health care team.
  3. Motor function: Candidates shall have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by auscultation, percussion, palpation, and other diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate shall be able to perform basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, phlebotomy, etc.), carry out procedures (intubation, pelvic exams, etc.), and read EKGs and X-rays. A candidate shall be able to execute motor movements required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment required of PAs are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medications, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, the opening of obstructed airways, suturing wounds, and the performance of obstetrical and surgical maneuvers. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.
  4. Conceptual and analytical thought: These abilities include being able to perceive all manner of sensory stimuli, including verbal, written, visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory. The candidate must be able to synthesize and integrate the aforementioned sensory inputs and apply them to patient care through objective and subjective examinations in a timely manner with stressful distracters consistent with the medical environment.
  5. Behavioral and social attributes: A candidate shall possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his/her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates shall be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. If a candidate has any spiritual, ethical, personal, or constitutional objection to physical contact with any gender identity or expression, such objection may not interfere with the candidate’s ability to perform full physical examinations of patients, which is necessary to fulfill the requirements of clinical competence and graduation. Students will also be required to practice and perfect physical examination skills on each other (with the exception of examinations of the genitalia). Candidates shall be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties in the clinical problems of many patients. Because disease recognizes no holiday or day of the week, candidates must be willing to perform in the clinical setting as required by their designated preceptor. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the education process.


The following declaration of functions and tasks was created by modifying content from the Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession1 and the Recommendations for Clinical Skills Curricula for Undergraduate Medical Education2.

  • Exhibit respect, compassion, and integrity
  • Be accountable to patients, society, and the profession
  • Pursue scholarship
  • Practice self-reflection, critical curiosity, and initiative
  • Altruism
  • Leadership
  • Have a commitment to the education of PA students and other healthcare professionals
  • Exhibit cultural competency Maintain confidentiality

  • Understand, evaluate, and apply scientific principles related to patient care
  • Generate and test pathophysiological hypotheses regarding the nature of patient’s illnesses
  • Practice evidence-based medicine
  • Apply signs and symptoms of medical and surgical conditions and appropriate diagnostic studies to manage general medical and surgical conditions

  • Obtain and interpret an accurate patient history and physical examination
  • Make decisions about diagnostic testing and imaging
  • Formulate a differential diagnosis
  • Implement patient management plans
  • Perform medical and surgical procedures essential to the area of practice
  • Provide patient education
  • Provide interventions for prevention of disease and health promotion/maintenance
  • Use information technology to support patient care

  • Build and maintain effective rapport with patients
  • Demonstrate patient-centered communication
  • Demonstrate verbal empathy to patient suffering
  • Demonstrate emotional resilience and stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity and anxiety
  • Communicate with culturally diverse patients
  • Demonstrate the ability to document information regarding care for medical, legal, quality, and financial purposes
  • Establish proper communication and collaboration with other healthcare team members

  • Work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals to provide patient-centered care
  • Record and present clinical information
  • Appropriately research and appraise the medical literature
  • Practice cost-effective care and resource allocation that does not compromise quality of care
  • Advocate on behalf of your patients

Location in the curriculum where Functions and Tasks are taught

All five Functions are covered at one or more times during the didactic phase. Tasks associated with professionalism, while mostly innate, will be presented in lecture and discussion formats in Introduction to the Profession and Medical Humanities and Professionalism concentrations. Students will also be presented and habituated to professionalism in the clinical arena through the processes of observation and feedback. Tasks related to Medical Knowledge and Patient Care are presented in each of the clinical medicine courses. Communication is the focus of the Physical Diagnosis and Clinical Reasoning and Intervention concentrations. Finally, the sum of courses in the didactic phase contributes to the Function and Tasks of Entering Clinical Practice.

During the clinical phase, students are required to display or utilize all five Functions under the direct supervision of a licensed physician or PA.

Assurance that Functions and Tasks are Acquired

Confirmation that students meet all Functions and Tasks is accomplished by objective testing throughout the didactic phase and at each end-of-rotation meeting. Students also are evaluated by standardized patients and by direct faculty observations. Direct feedback is provided to each student from the faculty observations and/or from the recorded standardized patient interactions to assure the acquisition of all delineated functions.”

In the clinical phase, student performance is evaluated by preceptors at the mid-point and end of each supervised clinical experience. Finally, students must demonstrate competency by successfully completing summative clinical and objective examinations. Ample opportunities exist in the curriculum for remediation of suboptimal performance.

  • Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession. Originally adopted 2005; revised 2012. Available at: PA COMPETENCIES
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