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 38 percent by 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Occupational Outlook Handbook).
The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Mercyhurst University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Mercyhurst University.
Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program's ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.
Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.
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
Department Chair/Program Director
Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Associate Director, Graduate Admissions