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PA Program Competency Requirements

Professional competencies for physician assistants include the effective and appropriate application of medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

Competency Overview

While some competencies will be acquired during formal PA education, others will be developed and mastered as PAs progress through their careers. The PA profession defines the specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, and educational experiences requisite for PAs acquire and demonstrate these competencies.

The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings. Professional competencies for PAs include the effective and appropriate application of medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice.

Patient-centered, physician assistant practice reflects a number of overarching themes. These include an unwavering commitment to patient safety, cultural competence, quality health care, lifelong learning, and professional growth. Furthermore, the profession's dedication to the physician-PA team benefits patients and the larger community.

Knowledge for Practice

Physician assistants must demonstrate knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care. PA students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate investigative and critical thinking in clinical situations. 
  2. Access and interpret current and credible sources of medical information. 
  3. Apply principles of epidemiology to identify health problems, risk factors, treatment strategies, resources, and disease prevention/health promotion efforts for individuals and populations. 
  4. Discern among acute, chronic, and emergent disease states. 
  5. Apply principles of clinical sciences to diagnose disease and utilize therapeutic decision-making, clinical problem-solving, and other evidence-based practice skills. 
  6. Adhere to standards of care, and to relevant laws, policies, and regulations that govern the delivery of care in the United States. 
  7. Consider cost-effectiveness when allocating resources for individual patient or population-based care. 
  8. Work effectively and efficiently in various healthcare delivery settings and systems. 
  9. Identify and address social determinants that affect access to care and deliver high quality care in a value-based system. 


  • Information gathering
  • Acquiring a history
  • Physical examination
  • Discern important versus extraneous information
  • Prioritization of actions and clinical care which integrates cultural awareness
  • Empathetic listening
  • Relationship building
  • Evidence-based decision making

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Physician assistants must demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in the effective exchange of information and collaboration with patients, their families, and health professionals. PA students should be able to:

  1. Establish meaningful and therapeutic relationships with patients and their families.
  2. Communicate information to patients and their families in a way that is culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate.
  3. Recognize communication barriers and provide solutions.
  4. Demonstrate emotional intelligence in the development of the therapeutic relationship.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate with patients, their families, and members of the healthcare team via oral communication and written documentation.


  • Information gathering
  • Acquiring a history
  • Discern important versus extraneous information
  • Prioritization of actions and clinical care which integrates cultural awareness
  • Empathetic listening
  • Relationship building
  • Evidence-based decision making

Person-Centered Care

Physician assistants provide person-centered care that includes patient- and setting-specific assessment, evaluation, and management and healthcare that is evidence-based, supports patient safety, and advances health equity. The PA student should be able to:

  1. Gather accurate and essential information about patients through history taking, physical examination, and diagnostic testing.
  2. Apply the context of the individual’s life to their care, such as environmental and cultural influences.
  3. Interpret data based on patient information and preferences, current scientific evidence, and clinical judgment to make informed decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
  4. Develop, implement, and monitor effectiveness of patient management plans.
  5. Attain proficiency to safely perform medical, diagnostic, and surgical procedures for entry level practice.
  6. Counsel, educate, and empower patients and their families to participate in their care and enable shared decision-making.
  7. Refer patients appropriately, ensure continuity of care throughout transitions between providers or settings, and follow up on patient progress and outcomes.
  8. Provide healthcare services to patients, families, and communities to prevent health problems and to maintain health.


  • History-taking
  • Perform appropriate Physical Exam
  • Detail oriented
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Empathetic
  • Develop Treatment Plan

Interprofessional Collaboration

Physician assistants demonstrate the ability to engage with a variety of other healthcare professionals in a manner that optimizes safe, effective, patient- and population-centered care. PA students should be able to: 

  1. Work effectively with other health professionals to provide collaborative, patient-centered care.
  2. Communicate effectively with colleagues and other professionals to establish and enhance interprofessional teams.
  3. Understand the roles and responsibilities of other healthcare professionals and the importance of a team approach to develop optimal strategies to enhance patient care.
  4. Collaborate with other professionals to integrate clinical care and public health interventions.
  5. Recognize when to refer patients to other disciplines to ensure that patients receive optimal care at the right time and appropriate level.


  • Interpersonal skills including humility and beneficence
  • Self-awareness
  • Effective communication
  • Empathetic listening
  • Advocacy
  • Teamwork
  • Relationship building
  • Care planning

Professionalism and Ethics

Physician assistants demonstrate a commitment to practicing medicine and advocate for the patient, the patient’s family, and with other healthcare workers and do so within a moral, ethical, and legal framework steeped in Christian principles. The personal needs and desires of the PA student should never adversely affect the care of the patient. The PA student should be able to:

  1. Adhere to standards of care in the role of the PA in the healthcare team.
  2. Advocate for the patient, the patient’s family, and the PA Profession.
  3. Demonstrate cultural humility.
  4. Demonstrate responsiveness to patient needs that supersedes self-interest.
  5. Demonstrate compassion, integrity, and respect for others.
  6. Demonstrate compliance with policies, laws, and regulations.
  7. Demonstrate accountability for their actions.
  8. Demonstrate commitment to personal wellness and self-care that supports the provision of quality patient care.
  9. Demonstrate flexibility and professional civility when adapting to change.


  • Integrity
  • Inclination to serve and not to be served
  • Willingness, when necessary, to be transformative rather than conformative
  • Humility and willingness to seek help
  • Empathy for the patient along with superior listening skill
  • Demonstration of personal accountability
  • Professional speech and attire
  • Courteous and respectful nature

Practice-based Learning and Quality Improvement

Physician assistants demonstrate the ability to learn and implement quality improvement practices by engaging in self-awareness and the analysis of medical literature and other information resources for the purpose of self-evaluation, lifelong learning, and practice improvement. The PA student should be able to:

  1. Exhibit self-awareness to identify strengths, address deficiencies, and recognize limits in knowledge and expertise.
  2. Identify, analyze, and adopt new knowledge, guidelines, standards, technologies, products, or services that are evidence-based.
  3. Identify improvement goals and perform learning activities that address gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  4. Develop a professional capacity for ongoing quality improvement.
  5. Understand how practice decisions impact the finances of organizations, while keeping the patient’s needs foremost.
  6. Advocate for the value of the PA in clinical practice. 


  • Self-awareness
  • Accountability
  • Responsibility
  • Adaptability
  • Help-seeking behaviors
  • Quality improvement
  • Stewardship of resources
  • Practice-based improvement

Society and Population Health

Physician Assistants recognize and understand the influences of the ecosystem of person, family, population, environment, and policy on the health of patients and integrate knowledge of these determinants of health into patient care decisions. The PA student should be able to:

  1. Apply principles of social-behavioral sciences by assessing the impact of psychosocial and cultural influences on health, disease, care seeking, and compliance.
  2. Recognize the influence of genetic, socioeconomic, environmental, and other determinants on the health of an individual and community.
  3. Demonstrate how to improve the health of patient populations.


  • Awareness of unconscious biases
  • Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Relationship development
  • Patient advocacy and self-advocacy
  • Information gathering
  • Discernment of important versus extraneous information
  • Systems thinking
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Ethical decision making