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Physician Assistant Studies (MS)

PA student looking at a patient's eye

Prepare to become a compassionate, competent healthcare provider in one of today’s fastest-growing professions.

Why Major in Physician Assistant Studies?

A national doctor shortage has created an unprecedented demand for physician assistants and nurse practitioners. As part of a team of doctors, surgeons or other healthcare providers, physician assistants (PAs) can examine, diagnose and treat patients.

In rural and medically underserved communities, PAs often serve as a primary care provider in close collaboration with a physician — this capability is one reason PAs have become one of the nation’s fastest-growing professions.

Physician Assistant is Ranked One of the Nation’s Top Careers

Physician assistant is ranked #9 on the U.S. Department of Labor’s 20 Fastest Growing Occupations list for 2019-2029. In its Best Jobs publication, U.S. News and World Report also ranks PA among the best careers to pursue; among the honors:

  • #2  – Best Healthcare Jobs
  • #3 – Best 100 Jobs
  • #3 Best STEM Jobs

How to Become a PA

To become a PA, you first need to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program (for physician assistant schools, this is typically by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.) Once you have your degree and required clinical hours, you’ll be eligible to sit for your state’s licensure exam.

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Career Outlook & Success

31%

increase in demand for physician assistants expected through 2029 (BLS.gov)

95%

USF first-time pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam -- higher than the national average for PA programs

$96,120

median annual salary for physician assistants in Indiana (BLS, 2019)

Why USF for Physician Assistant Studies?

The University of Saint Francis is renowned for its healthcare education, and that includes our nationally recognized physician assistant master’s program. Our graduates are continually sought out by employers, not just for their sound clinical reasoning skills and competency in evidence-based medicine, but also for the high level of compassion and integrity they bring to their roles.

USF’s strong academics are rooted in the Catholic tradition of treating everyone with respect and kindness, a practice that aligns perfectly with both the medical credo and the PA program’s focus on underserved populations.

Expert Faculty & Innovative Facilities

If you’re looking for a physician assistant studies student on our campus, you’ll likely find them in the Doermer Health Sciences Center. This innovative learning center contains:

  • The USF Simulation Laboratory (SIM Lab for short)
  • A cadaver laboratory for human anatomy
  • A resource lab with patient units and exam rooms
  • High-fidelity and mid-fidelity patient simulators
  • State-of-the-art instruments and equipment

You will learn from an outstanding faculty, which includes many active healthcare clinicians. The real-world experience they bring from their professional lives to the classroom is invaluable to your USF experience.

Extensive Clinical Experience & Speciality Track Options

The best PA programs offer robust and outstanding clinical experiences that will develop you into a well-rounded healthcare professional. With more than 1,000 clinical education partners throughout our region, USF will help you find rotation sites that align with your goals.

Core Clinical Rotations

Five Weeks

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • General surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Elective of your choice

2.5 Weeks

  • Pediatrics
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Psychiatry

Additional Speciality Rotations

You’ll have the flexibility to choose two additional rotations from one of the following four tracks based on your professional goals. Your track options — as well as subspecialties and provider types — include:

Trauma/Surgery

  • Outpatient Clinic/Occupational Medicine
  • Surgery Subspecialties
  • Trauma Emergency Medicine
  • Medical Office Orthopedics
  • Radiology

Hospital-based Care

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Oncology
  • Intensive Critical Care Unit
  • Neurology
  • Gastroenterology

Family Practice

  • Pediatrics (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Geriatrics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Urgent Care

Internal Medicine

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Neurology
  • Nephrology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Rheumatology
PA students working with a simulator

Campus & Community Involvement

USF is home to campus ministries, student groups, and service organizations. Among these clubs is the PA Student Society, which offers social, educational and networking opportunities to members and the greater campus community.

What You Can Do With a Degree in Physician Assistant Studies?

Most students pursue a PA degree to provide patient care as part of a medical team, and more than 40% work in a hospital. With the variety of specialities and subspecialties available to PAs, you’ll find these professionals in almost every medical setting from a private practice to a large healthcare system.

The three most common areas of practice, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants are:

  • Surgical subspecialities (18.7%)
  • Family medicine/general practice (18.6%)
  • Emergency medicine (12.8%)

Some of the more unique places you can practice as a physician assistant: schools, colleges, correctional facilities, retail clinics and telehealth providers.

Others might wonder how to become a physician assistant that works in a non-clinical setting, such as in research or public health. The American Academy of PAs states that physician assistants can use their background to work for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies; to work in medical writing, healthcare communications and public policy; or to teach the next generation of PAs.

Where You’ll Find Our Graduates

USF physician assistant studies graduates demonstrate the diversity of this field, practicing medicine at places such as:

  • Ascension
  • Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
  • Beacon Health System
  • Beaumont Urgent Care
  • Beloit Hospital
  • BMG Orthopedics
  • Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates
  • Credo Family Medicine
  • Decatur Health Services
  • Ear, Nose & Throat Associates
  • First Choice Medical
  • Genesis Convenient Care
  • Gunderson Health System
  • Hamilton Community Health Network
  • Hospitalist Physicians Medical Group of Michigan
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mayo Clinic Health Systems
  • McLaren Medical Group
  • Mercy Health Ohio
  • MercyOne Waukee Family Medicine
  • MidMichigan Urgent Care
  • San Juan Neurosurgery Spine Center
  • Southern Indiana Nephrology & Hypertension
  • Spectrum Health
  • St. Vincent Health
  • University of Utah Health
  • West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders

Accreditation

At its September 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the University of Saint Francis Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of Saint Francis on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in September 2021.

Probation is a temporary status of accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards or when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, programs that still fail to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having their accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s). The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

Admission Requirements

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States of America or submit equivalency verification for foreign credentials.
  • Satisfactorily complete and submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) with at minimum 4.0 on the Analytical Writing.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  • A minimum overall science GPA of 3.0
  • Satisfactorily complete 12 semester credit hours in chemistry with a grade of “C” or better including courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Satisfactorily complete 15 semester credit hours in biology courses with a grade of “C” or better including human anatomy/physiology and microbiology.
  • Satisfactorily complete 6 semester credit hours with a grade of “C” or better in the area of psychology.
  • Possess direct patient care experience.
    • The most direct and responsible forms of patient care experience in a compensated position are preferred.
    • Clinical components of the educational experience required for other healthcare professions are considered, but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
    • Volunteer activity and/or appropriate life experience will be considered, but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
  • In order to participate in clinical experiences, clinical requirements as set by the Physician Assistant Studies Program and clinical agencies must be met including, but not limited to, criminal background checks, drug testing, immunizations and health screening.
  • No transfer credit, academic placement credit, or credit by portfolio will be accepted.

College of Health Science Technical Standards

The University of Saint Francis has identified technical standards that must be met by students in order to successfully progress in and graduate from its health science programs. These standards establish performance standards that will enable students to become competent practitioners who are able to provide safe care for their patients (persons, families and/or communities) with critical judgment, broadly based knowledge, and well-honed technical skills.

Technical standards (see below) outline skills, abilities and behavioral characteristics required to successfully complete health science programs at the university. Key areas include having abilities and skills in the areas of: (1) acquiring fundamental knowledge; (2) developing communication skills; (3) interpreting data; (4) integrating knowledge to establish clinical judgment; and (5) incorporating professional attitudes and behaviors into practice.

The university provides reasonable accommodations to all students on a nondiscriminatory basis and consistent with legal requirements as outlined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to an instructional activity, equipment, facility, program or service that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to fulfill the requirements necessary for graduation from the program. To be eligible for accommodations, a student must have a documented disability of (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (b) a record of such impairment; or (c) be regarded as having such a condition.

Acquiring Fundamental Knowledge: Students must be able to learn in classroom and other educational settings via lectures, demonstrations, review of research and patient care situations. Students must have the ability to find sources of knowledge, acquire the knowledge, be a life-long learner and demonstrate adaptive thinking.

Developing Communication Skills: Students must have the ability to effectively communicate verbally, nonverbally, in writing, with groups and using information technology. Students must be able to interact appropriately with patients (persons, families and/or communities), peers, and with all members of the health care team. Students must be able to interpret and convey information gathered from communications. They must be able to speak, read and write in English.

Interpreting Data: Students must have the ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize data in a timely manner. They must successfully fulfill examination requirements of the program, including written and practical examinations. Students must have the ability to (1) observe patient conditions and responses to health and illness, (2) assess and monitor health needs, (3) translate data into abstract concepts, and (4) understand evidence-based reasoning.

Integrating Knowledge to Establish Clinical Judgment: Students must demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making ability needed to care for individuals, families and/or communities across the health continuum. They must demonstrate clinical competency and the ability to participate in clinical experiences. Students must possess sensory capacity and motor function to gather patient data, perform patient assessment and implement therapeutic interventions.

Incorporating Professional Attitudes and Behaviors into Practice: Students must demonstrate cross cultural competency, integrity, moral reasoning, ethical behaviors and concern for others. They must have the ability to acquire interpersonal skills for professional interactions with diverse individuals, families and/or communities. They must be able to work cooperatively with intra and inter professional teams, adapt to changing environments inherent in clinical practice, and function effectively under stress.

The University of Saint Francis is committed to providing equal access to all students, including those students with disabilities. Once students are admitted to a health sciences program, they should contact Academic and Career Development Center at 260-399-7700 x 6075 if they believe that they may require reasonable accommodation to fulfill the Health Sciences Technical Standards.

Program Goals and Outcomes

Program Competencies

The following list defines the medical knowledge, interpersonal, clinical and technical skills, professional behaviors, and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for PA Practice:

  • Embrace the role of a physician assistant and recognize personal limitations while practicing.
  • Apply critical thinking and medical decision-making strategies to all aspects of acute and chronic patient care.
  • Practice evidence-based medicine which incorporates life-long learning and current clinical guidelines.
  • Communicate effectively with patients and families by utilizing patient centered interpersonal skills that incorporates mutual respect with the patient and cultural awareness.
  • Accurately complete written documentation of patient care, to include orders and referrals to other specialty care providers.
  • Elicit a patient-centered problem-oriented or comprehensive history from a patient of any age and gender utilizing appropriate interpersonal skills and cultural awareness.
  • Perform an appropriate focused and comprehensive physical examination for a patient of any age and gender recognizing normal and abnormal findings.
  • Possess a thorough understanding of medical ethics and the legal aspects of professional practice.
  • Integrate findings of the history, physical examination, risk factors, and epidemiology to formulate an appropriate problem list and differential diagnosis.
  • Effectively orally present a patient to supervising physicians incorporating cultural sensitivity regarding diverse patient populations.
  • Perform patient education which considers social determinants and encourages treatment adherence and lifestyle modification.
  • Practice preventive care including age-appropriate screening, immunization recommendations, patient education, behavioral modifications.
  • Identify, order, and interpret laboratory and diagnostic studies to appropriately address a patient’s differential diagnosis.
  • Prepare, implement, and monitor cost-effective treatment plans that utilize pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapeutic modalities in a variety of patient care areas across the life span.
  • Appropriately perform diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures and counsel patients regarding procedure, side effects, follow-up care, and informed consent.
  • Utilize medical knowledge of acute and chronic medical and surgical conditions including etiology, pathophysiology, incidence, risk factors, clinical presentation, differential diagnosis, and treatment strategies to effectively manage a patient across the life span.
  • Distinguish between emergent and non-emergent patient presentation and appropriately initiate an evaluation in life-threatening situations.
  • Implement public health and patient safety approaches to improve the quality of patient care.
  • Practice professionalism in all aspects of clinical practice while advocating for the patient.
  • Perform as an interprofessional team member and understand the roles of other health care professionals.

Curriculum and Clinical Rotations

Academic Plan

Procurement of Clinical Rotations: The PA Program faculty are responsible for obtaining, assigning and monitoring clinical rotations. Preceptors and clinical rotation sites are chosen and assigned by the PA Program, not the students. Students are not required to provide or solicit clinical sites or preceptors.

Board Exam Pass Rate

Since the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies curriculum was implemented with the class of 2004, 410 USF graduates have taken the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Of those 410 students, 400 passed on the first attempt (98%). The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) provides a NCCPA PANCE Pass Rate Summary Report that displays first-time Graduate Performance on Certification Exam results by exam administration year. The program report below demonstrates USF first time pass rate by graduation cohort since 2008.

Graduation Year USF First-Time Pass Rate USF Aggregate Pass Rate National First-Time Pass Rate
2020 92% 100% 95%
2019 95% 100% 93%
2018 96% 100% 98%
2017 100% 100% 97%
2016 100% 100% 96%
2015 100% 100% 96%
2014 100% 100% 95%
2013 100% 100% 94%
2012 100% 100% 93%
2011 100% 100% 91%
2010 100% 100% 94%
2009 95% 100% 92%
2008 100% 100% 94%

Mission and Vision Statement

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies provides education in medical knowledge and competencies needed by individuals to serve effectively as physician assistants who are mindful of the needs of underserved populations. The Department prepares students to be clinicians who achieve professional standards and have enhanced critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and competency in evidence-based medicine. We foster an educational environment of mutual respect, personal growth, and professional advancement.

Vision Statement

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies will prepare students to become compassionate and accomplished practitioners who are engaged in life-long learning and dedicated to service, education, and leadership.

Attrition Rates

Graduation Year Maximum entering class size (as approved by ARC-PA) Entering class size Graduates Attrition Rate Gradation Rate
Class of 2020 25 25 24 4% 96%
Class of 2019 25 25 21 16% 84%
Class of 2018 25 25 22 12% 88%

Attrition rate calculation: Number of students who attritted from cohort divided by the entering class size.

Graduation rate: Number of cohort graduates divided by the entering class size.

The table above can also be viewed as a PDF.

Tuition and Fees

Cost of Tuition

Tuition and fees will be made available as soon as established by the University of Saint Francis and the PA Program. Within three weeks of notification of acceptance to the PA Program, prospective students are required to pay a non-refundable program deposit of $1,000.00. For those students who matriculate, the program deposit is applied to the cost of tuition.

Physician assistant students are billed at a block tuition rate that includes semester and technology fees. Updated tuition information is available on the Tuition page. Each student is financially responsible for any tuition and/or fees associated with taking additional courses due to failure, remediation, or deceleration in the PA Program for any reason. Cost of additional tuition and fees will be established by the University of Saint Francis.

Required Physician Assistant Departmental Fees

In addition to the published tuition, semester and technology fees, the following table illustrates a summary of required fees. These are estimates only and prices are subject to change.

Item/Fee Frequency Total Cost
Name Badge First Summer Semester Only $20
Annual Drug Testing First and Second Summer Semesters $60
Annual Background Check Once before enrollment and once before clinical year $90
Annual TB Testing First and Second Summer Semesters $50
Annual Flu Shot Each fall semester (x2) $80
CPR Certificaton First Summer Semester Only $55
Annual Physical Exams Once before enrollment and once before clinical year $300
Fit Testing/N95 Masks Clinical Year $20
ACLS Certification Second Summer Semester Only $200
Graduation Pictures Clinical Year $50
Standardized Patient Fee Each semester (x7) $2205
Simulation Fee Each fall semester (x2) $300
Cadaver Lab Fee First Summer Semester Only $400
ExamSoft Testing Platform Each semester (x7) $1225
Total Estimated Fees $5055

Potential Physician Assistant Departmental Fees

In addition to the required fees noted above, several other fees may apply. These are estimates only and prices are subject to change.

Item/Fee Total Cost
Didactic Year PACKRAT retake (if applicable) $45
Clinical Year PACKRAT retake (if applicable) $45
Re-entry testing following an approved leave of absence (if applicable) $650

Procurement of Medical Equipment

All physician assistant students are required to purchase medical equipment of suitable quality to perform physical examinations. This includes a stethoscope, an otoscope and ear specula, an ophthalmoscope, ruler and/or flexible tape measure, two tuning forks (128 Hz and 512 Hz), a reflex hammer, hand-held eye chart, sensory testing tools, and a sphygmomanometer. The cost of these items will be approximately $1,000 – $1,200. Items to be purchased are disclosed in the enrollment packet upon matriculation.

Cost of Books & Other Materials

The following includes an estimated cost of books and materials for the duration of the program. Prices are subject to change.

Item/Fee Total Cost Required Recommended/Optional
Summer I Medical Equipment $1200
Books $600 $330 (most are available for free on Clinical Key)
Typhon $90
Fall Books $370 $130
Estimated Total $2260 $460

Housing & Living Expenses

Students are expected to procure their own housing throughout the duration of the PA Program. Graduate housing is not offered by the University of Saint Francis. All transportation and living expenses are to be covered by the student while enrolled. All students (didactic and clinical) are expected to maintain housing within a 1-hour commute of the Fort Wayne area throughout the entirety of the PA Program.

Most clinical rotations assigned to students will be within a 1 ½ hour commute from the Fort Wayne campus. More distant sites are occasionally assigned, and the student will be made aware of this in advance. Housing is occasionally provided by the University, but students may need to secure their own housing, as well. If a student requests and is assigned to a distant rotation site at which a clinical affiliate/the University does not provide housing, the student is responsible to procure and pay for housing within a 1 ½ hour commute of the rotation site.

Student Transportation

Students are responsible for their own transportation and related costs to off-campus classes, activities, and clinical sites. The university is not responsible for personal injury to students when traveling to off-campus activities.

Insurance

The University of Saint Francis provides liability insurance for students performing clinical assignments as part of the educational experience. Personal health/medical insurance is not provided by the university. It is strongly recommended that students have their own health insurance coverage. The cost of treatment for student injury during an educational experience is the responsibility of the student. Information about how students can purchase health insurance is available through the Office of Student Affairs, located in room 137 of Trinity Hall. The office may be contacted by email, at studentlife@sf.edu, or by phone, at (260)-399-8100.

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Academic Plan

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