The Department of Physician Assistant Studies is at the forefront of education for PAs, emphasizing professional excellence and leadership through a 24-month program. In addition, we educate our students to be advocates for just practices, policies and standards in the profession, and to promote the right to good healthcare in society.
A physician assistant (PA) is a licensed medical professional who works as part of a team under the supervision of a physician. PAs are trained in a medical school model of curriculum to perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes.
The PA profession is rooted in history as a creative solution to physician shortages. Dr. Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center developed the profession in the mid-1960s as a way to fast-track U.S. Navy corpsmen who had received substantial medical training during their military preparation into primary care to meet the needs of this national shortage of providers.
Physician Assistants provide high quality, cost-effective healthcare and are productive members of the health care team. The physician assistant profession is in a continued growth pattern with an estimated increase of 30 percent by 2020 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook).
Mercyhurst University has applied for Accreditation - Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Mercyhurst University anticipates matriculating its first class in June 2015, pending Accreditation - Provisional in March 2015. Accreditation - Provisional is an accreditation status for a new PA program that has not yet enrolled students, but at the time of its initial accreditation review, has demonstrated its preparedness to initiate a program in accordance with the
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies at Mercyhurst University is at the forefront of education for PAs; it emphasizes professional excellence and leadership through a 24-month program. In addition, the PA program educates Mercyhurst students to become advocates of just practices, policies and standards in the profession, while teaching them to promote the right to good healthcare in society.
The Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies provides curriculum in sequence, with students progressing through preplanned semesters. The curriculum has been developed to meet standards set forth by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). ARC-PA defines the standards for PA education and is the responsible agency in evaluating PA educational programs.
The curriculum sequencing commences with a summer session of basic science review, introductory coursework and the beginning of clinical skills education. The didactic year (fall and spring semesters) will teach health care sciences in a medical model. In addition, Mercyhurst students will have intermittent exposure to the community via hands-on experiences in area hospital, nursing home and physician offices.
The PA student's clinical year will be primarily spent in clinical experiences off campus, with students returning to campus for the last two days of the rotation for debriefing of the experience, clinical and written testing, case presentations and lectures. The Summative Evaluation Experience will consist of a two week course on campus to prepare students for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).
To successfully complete the program, a minimum a 3.0 cumulative grade point average must be maintained throughout the program of study. Mercyhurst students must successfully pass all didactic and clinical components of the program, final summative evaluation and all components of the master’s portfolio.
Mercyhurst students who are successful in the completion of all the requirements of the program of study will earn a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies, and he/she will be eligible to sit for the PANCE exam. This examination must be passed in order to practice in all states.
Due to the rigor of the curriculum,students are discouraged from working during the didactic and clinical phases. While on clinical experiences, students will be expected to put in a full work week and will also have reading and written assignments to attend to. During this time, students need to focus on their education; it is highly encouraged to plan ahead financially for the clinical phase of the program.
Catherine Gillespie, DHSc, PA-C
Chair, Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Associate Director, Graduate Admissions
Credits | Course
4 BIO 534 Anatomy
1 BIO 536 Anatomy lab
3 BIO 544 Physiology
2 BIO 524 Microbiology
1 BIO 514 Genetics
3 PA 510 Clinical Skills
1 PA 512 Clinical Skills Lab 1
1 PA 502 PA Profession
2 PUBH 520 Research Methods for Health Professions
Credits | Course
1 PA 514 Clinical Skills Lab 2
6 PA 520 Clinical Medicine 1
3 PA 530 Pharmacotherapeutics 1
3 PSYC 525 Psychology in Healthcare
2 PA 540 Women’s Health
2 PA 545 Pediatrics
1 PA 550 Special Topics in Medicine
Credits | Course
6 PA 522 Clinical Medicine 2
3 PA 532 Pharmacotherapeutics 2
1 PA 565 Evidence Based Medicine
2 PA 570 Healthcare Policy
4 PA 575 Emergency Medicine and Surgery
1 PA 580 Procedures in Medicine
Credits | Course
5 PA 602 Rotation I - Internal Medicine
5 PA 610 Rotation II - Family Practice
2 PA 620 Thesis Guidance
Credits | Course
5 PA 630 Rotation III - Women’s Health
5 PA 640 Rotation IV - Pediatrics
5 PA 650 Rotation V - Emergency Medicine
Credits | Course
5 PA 660 Rotation VI - Surgery
5 PA 670 Rotation VII - Elective
4 PA 680 Rotation VIII – Elective
1 PA 690 Rotation IX – Mental Health
2 PA 695 Summative Evaluation Experience
Total credits required for Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree: 97 credits
The following are up-to-date policies that affect students of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies.
The DPAS Student Handbook contains the full set of student policies.
The Mercyhurst University Refund Policy is available at this link.
PA students must have the intellectual, ethical, physical and emotional capabilities required to undertake the entire curriculum and be able to achieve the levels of competence required by the faculty. The standards describe essential functions that the student must demonstrate to meet the requirements of PA education; these standards are prerequisites for matriculation, continuation and graduation from the PA program. Furthermore, the use of an intermediary, a person trained to perform essential skills on behalf of the student, is not permitted.
Mercyhurst University physician assistant students must possess the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze and synthesize data. They must have functional use of the senses of vision, hearing, equilibrium and taste. Exteroceptor (touch, pain and temperature) and proprioceptor (position, pressure, movement, stereognosis and vibratory) senses must be sufficiently intact to permit them to complete the activities described below. PA students must have sufficient motor function capabilities to meet the demands of the PA program and the ability to care for patients.
The following technical standards are adapted from the AAMC guidelines. Mercyhurst University physician assistant students must have the ability, aptitude and skills in these areas: observation, communication, motor, intellectual conceptual, integrative and quantitative, behavioral/social and physical demands.
The candidate must be able to observe required demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, including, but not limited to: anatomic dissection, microscopic studies, and patient demonstrations. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation requires the functional use of the sense of vision, hearing and somatic sensation.
The candidate must be able to speak, to hear and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive non-verbal communication. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. Communication includes not only speech, but also reading and writing in English. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written forms with the various disciplines in healthcare.
3. Motor Abilities
The candidate must have sufficient motor function to carry out basic laboratory techniques and to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers, perform dissection of a human cadaver and have sufficient motor ability to use a microscope. The candidate should be able to perform a complete physical examination (including pelvic and rectal examination); diagnostic procedures (e.g. venipuncture and basic laboratory tests (e.g. urinalysis). The candidate must be able to perform motor movements required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients, such examples of treatment reasonably required of physician assistant students may include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, the suturing of simple wounds, assisting in surgical operations and the performance of simple, general obstetrical and gynecological procedures. These actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch, vision and hearing.
4. Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative
Problem solving is a critical skill required of physician assistants, this requires that a candidate has the ability to learn, retrieve, analyze sequence, organize, synthesize and integrate information efficiently and reason effectively. In addition the candidate should possess the ability to measure and calculate accurately, to perceive three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
5. Behavioral and Social Attributes
The candidate must have the emotional health required for full utilization of his/her intellectual abilities, the ability to exercise good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities connected to the diagnosis and care of patients and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients and family members and health care providers. Candidates must be able to work effectively as a member of the health-care team. Candidates must also be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and to learn to function in the realm of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, collegiality, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admission and education processes.
Physician assistant students are reviewed individually and on a case basis using the standards as described. Mercyhurst University abides by federal, state and local law in admissions, employment and all services and programs provided. Mercyhurst University complies with federal, state and local legislation and regulations regarding nondiscrimination. Mercyhurst University does not discriminate in the admissions process, educational program or employment process against any on the basis of the individual’s age, race, color, religion, sex, creed, citizenship status, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, familial status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, military or veteran status or any other legally protected characteristic or because of any individual’s legally protected activities.
Accepted students with a disability who believe they may require special accommodations should contact the Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies immediately upon accepting the offer of admissions. Prior to matriculation, all accepted students must attest in writing that they are able to meet these defined program technical standards.
Expenses — First Year
|Tuition ($736 credit @ 53)||39,008|
|Anatomy Lab Fee||200|
|Medical Equipment Fee||950|
|Expenses — Second Year||Credit Based|
|Tuition ($736 credit @ 44)||32,384|
Living expenses – variable cost
Books – approximate $1500-2000
Clearance costs – approximate $150
PSPA conference travel and housing – variable cost
AAPA conference meals only – variable cost
Total credits: 97
Total program cost per student:
Credit based $79,062
The following information is an estimate of tuition for the entire 24-month program. Please note that these estimates may change annually. Should the program not gain accreditation, any deposit or tuition payment will be refunded.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college/university, or evidence of expected completion of a bachelor degree at the time of application. The undergraduate degree must be completed at time of matriculation.
Minimum GPA of 3.2 for undergraduate work and a minimum of 3.2 or higher in prerequisite courses.
Credits | Course
8 Biology with labs
12 Chemistry with labs (General and Organic)
4 Biochemistry with lab
4 Anatomy with lab
4 Physiology with lab
4 Microbiology with lab
2-3 Medical Terminology
Applications will be evaluated by the Graduate Admissions Department with the established prerequisites. Students who meet requirements for interview will be notified of invite to interview on a rolling basis. Applications for the class entering in June 2015 will be accepted beginning July 15, 2014 and will have a deadline of November 15, 2014.
Candidates will be chosen with process of evaluation from the interview, published prerequisites and space availability. Candidates will be notified in writing of acceptance and will be given two weeks to reply and pay a deposit.
All students MUST provide proof of health insurance prior to matriculation. Each Student’s personal health insurance policy must remain active throughout their participation in the program.
Students are financially responsible for the cost of all health care services they may require while enrolled in the program, including any health care services required as a result of their participation in scheduled program activities (e.g. TB testing, immunizations, treatment of injuries, pathogen exposure evaluation and treatment).
Prior to matriculation into the didactic and clinical phase of the program students must have a health screening to prove they are in good health, free from communicable disease and hold current immunization status. This is to be completed by their primary care provider and include a health history, physical examination, immunization verification and laboratory verification of serologic testing for immunity (antibody test results) as indicated on the DPAS Student Health Record. See appendix H in the Student Handbook for a copy of this form. The Cohen Student Health Center does not provide immunizations or health screening for this requirement.
DPAS students are required to have current immunization status throughout enrollment in the program as recommended for healthcare personnel by the Centers for Disease Control. Please refer to the following link for the most current CDC guidelines: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/hcw.html and http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2017.pdf.
All students must have baseline tuberculosis screening in the form of a tuberculosis skin test (TST) or Quantiferon testing (if applicable) performed in accordance with CDC guidelines within one year of matriculation and again before beginning the clinical phase. Additionally, certain clinical sites may have more stringent requirements. If the any TB testing is positive, evaluation and treatment if indicated must be completed in accordance with current CDC guidelines.
The Cohen Health Center staff will review the health record information to ensure that the student meets the defined requirements. Students who are not in compliance with having a completed health record will not be allowed to participate in clinical experiences and may delay their education and progression in the program of study.
The student health record is a confidential document that is not accessible to the department program faculty, department chair, medical director, or program staff. Per accreditation standards the only information that will be accessible to the department student file is the student’s immunization record and tuberculosis screening. Students must give written permission for their health information to be shared with clinical sites. This statement is located directly on the student health record.
Students must be current with all required immunizations. Either record of immunization or serologic proof of immunity must be provided for all listed conditions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for health care personnel, to include but may not be limited to:
1. Hepatitis B: Proof of the three-dose immunization against Hepatitis B. This series must be started within 30 days of matriculation. Following completion of the Hepatitis B series, a positive (immune) titer must be completed prior to patient contact. Non-converters may require additional immunizations per the CDC recommendations.
2. Mumps: Records of titer validating current immunity and/or 2-dose vaccine series being administered on schedule.
3. Rubeola (measles): Records of titer validating current immunity and/or 2-dose vaccine series being administered on schedule.
4. Rubella: Records of titer validating current immunity and/or 1-dose MMR immunization.
5. Varicella: Records of titer validating current immunity and/or 2-dose vaccine series being administered on schedule. Note: History of previous infection is not sufficient evidence of immunity.
6. Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: Documentation of a completed primary series with Tdap or DTP and booster within the last ten years.
7. Influenza: Will be required to obtain influenza immunization annually while enrolled in the program.
Program faculty, department chair, medical director, or program staff will not participate as health care providers for students enrolled in the program and will not have access to any student health information other than that defined in this policy.
The mission of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies (DPAS) is to prepare students with the highest quality academic and clinical training. The program will prepare physician assistants to be leaders in the profession, proficient in meeting the challenges of healthcare, while providing compassionate, quality care to the diverse communities in which they serve.
The department’s mission, vision and core goals were developed to align with the university’s mission, vision and core values. Emphasis has been placed on the Mercy tradition and healthcare core values to stay true to the basic principles set forth by our founders.
Mercyhurst University’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies will be at the forefront of the education of physician assistants who will excel in professional excellence and leadership. They will be advocates for just practices, policies and standards in the profession, and advocate for the right to good healthcare in society.
Guided by our vision and core goals the Department of Physician Assistant Studies will use the following as indicators of success in achieving the mission:
Upon completion of the Mercyhurst Department of Physician Assistant Studies, the graduate will possess knowledge, skills and abilities in the following competencies:
Catherine GillespieChair, Department of Physician Assistant Studies Office: CMC 105 Phone: 824-2513
Holly JodonAssociate Director/Associate Professor Office: CMC 214 Phone: 824-2596
Marcie FitzgeraldClinical Director, Department of Physician Assistant Studies Office: CMC 215 Phone: 824-3861
Paul HolleyMedical Director, Department of Physician Assistant Studies Office: CMC 216 Phone: 824-2598