Physician Assistant Studies

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Graduate programs

Master of Science, Physician Assistant Studies

PAS Department
O'Reilly Clinical Heath Sciences Center, Suite 200
Phone 417-836-6151; PAS@MissouriState.edu

Professional description

Physician assistants are health professionals prepared to practice medicine with physician supervision. Physician assistants are qualified by graduation from an accredited physician assistant educational program and/or by certification by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. Within the physician/PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision-making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services.

The clinical role of physician assistants includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings in rural and urban areas. Physician assistant practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research and administrative roles.

Program description

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies is a graduate, entry-level, professional study designed to prepare highly competent practitioners to practice primary care medicine in the context of team-delivered care in a rapidly evolving health care arena. The program is 24 months (six semesters) duration and is divided into didactic (12 months) and clinical phases (12 months). Enrollment is on a continuous, full-time basis only. The curriculum is based on the Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education and incorporates the principles of scientific inquiry, self-directed study, critical analysis, and problem solving. Due to the rigorous nature of the curriculum, students should not expect to be employed during their enrollment.

Program accreditation

The Missouri State University Physician Assistant Program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Accreditation is a process of external peer review to assure standards of excellence and quality are met and maintained. Graduation from an accredited PA program is a requirement to practice as a PA in the United States and to sit for the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) certifying examination.

Admission requirements

Applications are submitted to CASPA online for individuals interested in applying for the class beginning in January.

  1. Possess baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States prior to entering the program. Applicants who have completed a higher degree in the U.S. and a baccalaureate degree at an accredited international institution must submit a course-by-course U.S. equivalency report from a U.S. based evaluation service directly to CASPA in addition to other required transcripts.
  2. Applicants must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.00 (as determined by CASPA) on a 4.00 scale, or 3.00 on a 4.00 scale for the last 60 hours of course work is required.
  3. Complete all pre-professional prerequisite courses by the end of the fall semester before the program begins (pre-professional prerequisite courses listed below). All prerequisite courses must be completed at a regionally accredited institution
  4. Complete the Graduate Record Examination General (GRE) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) within the past 5 years.
  5. Meet all requirements for admission to graduate study at Missouri State University. Graduate College admission and degree requirements are detailed under the Graduate College policies in the current catalog.
  6. Present evidence of completion of the Basic Life Support for Health Professionals course approved by the American Heart Association. The certificate must be valid for one year after the beginning of the program.
  7. Meet technical standards of the program in order to successfully undertake the course of study. These standards are available upon request from the program. Matriculating students must also demonstrate evidence of good physical health and have up-to-date immunizations (MMR, tetanus, and a complete Hepatitis B series, including a titer demonstrating immunity), and a PPD (Plus chest x-ray for PPD+ individuals).
  8. The Missouri State University Physician Assistant Program participates in the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Applications will be available after May 1 for individuals interested in applying for the class beginning in January. Apply online at http://www.caspaonline.org. The deadline for applications to CASPA is July 15. A All applications must be verified by CASPA no later than August 12. The CASPA web site provides additional information about the initial application requirements and fees.
  9. Competitive applicants will be invited to interview with members of the program’s admission committee.
  10. Matriculated students must enroll on a full-time basis and progress through the program with their class.
  11. All students are required to carry professional liability insurance throughout the program. This insurance is available through the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
  12. All students must also carry health (including hospitalization) insurance throughout the entire program.
  13. Students will be required to initiate and pay for any security checks and drug screening required by clinical agencies, for application to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), and when applying for professional licensure.
  14. Apply for criminal record check and receive response that the applicant has not been convicted of any crime pursuant to Section 660.317 RSMo or other disqualifications that would prohibit licensure as a physician assistant.
  15. Applicants must have a minimum of 500+ hours of paid, direct, hands-on patient care experience at the time the CASPA application is submitted.  Patient care experience requiring certification is most competitive and includes, but is not limited to:  nurse, paramedic, EMT-B, CNA or PCT, health educator, respiratory therapist, athletic trainer or Medical Assistant (MA).  Supervised clinical internships may account for up to 50 of the required 500 hours.  Volunteer work at hospitals, clinics or other medical venues does not count toward the required hours of clinical experience, but is valued by the admissions committee and can, therefore, strengthen a candidate's application.
Selection Factors

Admission into the Physician Assistant Studies Program is highly competitive. The maximum number of students admitted to each cohort is specified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.  While applicants must complete all prerequisite requirements to be considered for a position in the class, completion of all admission requirements does not assure acceptance into the program. In making class selections, the admissions committee will consider the following characteristics of competitive applicants:

  • academic potential (science GPA, overall GPA, last 60 hours GP, program-specific graduate study entrance examination) to successfully complete the program
  • understanding and commitment to the role of the physician assistant
  • personal maturity
  • motivation
  • interpersonal skills
  • quality and duration of health care experience
  • capacity for performance of the technical functions and tasks required of the physician assistant
  • service and leadership experience
  • characteristics to enhance the program’s mission and goals including strong motivation to practice in rural/underserved areas
  • graduation from Missouri  State University
  • diverse life experiences including, but not limited to, U.S. military experience, first generation college students, diverse upbringing/background or unique life experience
  • previous application to MSU PA program
Preprofessional Prerequisite Courses  Minimum Semester Hours **
  1. Life sciences                                             14 hrs minimum
    1. Must include 2 courses (8 semester hours total) in anatomy and physiology at the pre-med level or for science majors including lab.
    2. Must include a course in microbiology (3 semester hours minimum), preferably including a lab component.
    3. Must include a course in human or medical genetics (3 semester hours minimum).
    4. Other appropriate courses may include cell biology, cell physiology, embryology, endocrinology, genetics, histology, virology, immunology, molecular biology, neurobiology, bacteriology, and epidemiology.
  2. Chemistry                                                 12 hrs minimum
    1. Must include the complete sequence (2-3 semesters) of general chemistry at the pre-med level or for science majors including lab.
    2. A course in organic chemistry or biochemistry is also required (a survey course is acceptable).
  3. Statistics                                                                          3 hrs
  4. Social Science                                             6 hrs minimum
    1. Must include a course in general or introductory psychology
    2. Additional courses may include: developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, sociology, health care ethics, or death and dying, etc.

**  Contact department for additional information.

**  A grade of “C” or higher must be earned in each of the courses.  

**  CLEP examination or advanced placement credit may not be used to meet any of the above requirements, unless a comparable number of credits in advanced courses in the discipline have been completed.

**  Due to the rapid evolution of the basic sciences, preference may be given to applicants who have completed their pre-professional prerequisite courses during five years prior to applying to the program, particularly those with strong science work.

**  Additional life science course work (listed above) beyond the minimum will strengthen the application.

Recommended Prerequisites/Proficiencies
  1. Candidate for admission to the PA program should “shadow” a practicing PA for at least 24 hours.
  2. A course in medical terminology is strongly recommended for applicants who are not health professionals or for any applicant not confident of their ability in this area. Self-study courses are appropriate.
  3. Proficiency in basic computer skills (word-processing, spreadsheets, databases, Internet searches, Email) is expected of all entering students as the curriculum will incorporate the use of computer technology. Additionally, all students in the program will be expected to have computer access to the Internet available at home.
Retention During the Program

The PA program holds high academic and ethical standards. A student must attain a grade point average of at least 3.00 on all graduate work. A grade of “C” or above (or “pass” for courses graded “pass/not pass”) represents acceptable professional work for the PA program, however a student earning more than nine semester hours of “C” or lower becomes ineligible for graduate study. No course with a grade below “C” may be applied toward a graduate degree. Any grade below a “C” in any given course, didactic or clinical, is not acceptable and may be grounds for dismissal from the PA program for academic reasons, subject to faculty discretion. If a student earning a grade below a “C” is retained in the program, the student will be required to complete remedial work prescribed by the faculty; this may result in the student's delayed graduation. Students must also meet any requirements for individual clinical preceptorship sites.

Admission to the PA program and acceptable grades represent the minimum criteria necessary for successful completion of the PA program. The PA program faculty constitutes the Promotions Committee which meets at the end of the didactic year to determine if students will be advanced to the clinical phase of training. While grades are important, the decision to promote a student is based on the composite picture of the ability of the student to perform satisfactorily in the clinical phase of training. If a student has failed to demonstrate an attitude of professionalism (as detailed in the didactic year policy manual) or if the committee does not believe that student is prepared to assume patient care responsibilities, a student may be dismissed from the program. Similarly, at the end of the clinical year, the Promotions Committee will make a determination about a student’s readiness to graduate based on academic performance and professional growth and development.

Degree requirements

All students must complete the required 87 semester hours of the curriculum (42 didactic and 45 clinical) in the prescribed sequence for each admitted class (cohort).  Any exceptions to the cohort progression must stem from unavoidable and extreme personal circumstances, and must be approved by the program director.

  1. Academic Advisor - Upon matriculation, each student will be assigned to a departmental academic advisor, who along with the program’s didactic and clinical coordinators, will supervise a student’s progression through the program.
  2. Didactic year courses:

Spring - 15 credit hours

Course Code Course Title Credit Hours
PAS 717 Medical Human Anatomy and Radiology 6 hrs
BMS 752 Medical Physiology 3 hrs
PAS 753 Molecular Pathophysiology 1 hr
PAS 765 Clinical Assessment I 3 hrs
PAS 769 Behavioral Medicine 1 hr
PAS 775 Principles of Clinical Problem Solving 1 hr

Summer - 10 credit hours

Course Code Course Title Credit Hours
PAS 785 Clinical Medicine I 4 hrs
PAS 780 Pharmacotherapeutics I 1 hr
PAS 766 Clinical Assessment II 3 hrs
PAS 770 Professional Issues Seminar 1 hr
PAS 783 Clinical Practicum I 1 hr

Fall - 17 credit hours

Course Code Course Title Credit Hours
PAS 786 Clinical Medicine II 6 hrs
PAS 781 Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics 3 hrs
PAS 787 Laboratory Medicine and Clinical Procedures 2 hrs
PAS 788 EKG & ACLS 2 hrs
PAS 776 Clinical Problem Solving Seminar  1 hr
PAS 777 Introduction to Research and Clinical Epidemiology 2 hrs
PAS 784 Clinical Practicum II 1 hr

C.  Clinical year courses. The clinical year consists of 8 six-week clinical preceptorship courses (PAS 790) for 5 credit hours each. The clinical preceptorship courses consist of the following required clinical rotations:

Family medicine I*
Family medicine II*
General surgery
Internal Medicine
Emergency Medicine
Obstetrics and Gynecology/Women’s Health
Pediatrics
Directed/Electives*

* With one of the Family Medicine or Directed/Elective clinical rotations, the student will experience a 3 week emphasis in behavioral and mental health.

Notes:

  1. Students should expect to complete at least one primary care preceptorship (family practice, internal medicine, or pediatrics) in a rural setting.
  2. Students should anticipate that up to three of their assigned clinical rotations will occur outside of the Springfield area adn will require living in "off-campus" housing.  Normally, the travel, housing, and other expenses incurred in relocation are at the student’s expense. However, at some distant-rotation sites, housing will be provided by the program.
  3. Students will register in the clinical year for PAS 797 Clinical Practice Issues Seminar (1 credit hour) each semester for a total of 3 credit hours and for PAS 798 Clinical Research Project (2 hours) during the final semester of their clinical year. This project will consist of an in-depth study of a clinical problem of interest, which culminates in a scholarly paper and formal presentation.