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PA Program Essential Functions and Technical Standards

It is the responsibility of each applicant to affirm that they meet these technical standards upon entrance to the physician assistant program.

Bethel University Physician Assistant Program considers it essential for all physician assistant students to have the knowledge and skills to function in a variety of clinical settings and to provide a wide spectrum of patient care as required by the curriculum. Therefore every physician assistant student must master a common body of basic science knowledge and master the principles, knowledge, and procedures of the core clinical rotations, including internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, and behavioral/mental health. This requires that every student have sufficient abilities and skills in: Observation, Communication, Motor/Tactile Function, Cognitive/Intellectual Function, and Behavioral/Social Attributes. Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities will be considered on an individual basis, but a candidate must be able to perform in an independent manner. Surrogates cannot be used to accomplish the essential requirements. The use of a trained intermediary is not acceptable in many clinical situations, in that it implies that a candidate’s judgment must be mediated by someone else’s power of selection and observation. Furthermore, it is expected that the student will meet the technical standards throughout the duration of the program of study. It is incumbent on the student to notify the program immediately if he/she is unable to meet one of the standards.

Completion of Bethel University’s PA Program requires that the student independently demonstrates these capabilities outlined more fully below. The following skills are required, with or without accommodation:


Observation includes the ability to perceive, using senses and mental abilities, the information presented in both educational and clinical settings. Educational information will be presented through lectures, small groups, and one-on-one interactions, as well as written and audiovisual material.

  • Students must have sufficient sensory capacity to observe in the lecture hall, the laboratory, the outpatient setting, and at the patient’s bedside.
  • Sensory skills adequate to perform the physical examination are required. Functional vision, hearing, and tactile sensation must be adequate to observe a patient’s condition and to elicit information through procedures regularly required in a physical exam, such as inspection, auscultation, and palpation.
  • A student must be able to: observe a patient accurately, at a distance, and close at hand, with or without standard medical instrumentation; acquire information from written documents and visualize information as presented in images from computer screens, paper, film, slides, or video. This includes, but is not limited to, information conveyed through physiologic and pharmacological demonstrations in animals, microbiological cultures, and microscopic images of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states.
  • In any case where a student’s ability to observe or acquire information through these sensory modalities is compromised, the candidate must demonstrate alternate means and/or abilities to acquire and demonstrate the essential information conveyed in this fashion. If the alternatives are acceptable, it is expected that obtaining and using such alternative means and/or abilities shall be the responsibility of the student.


Communication includes the ability to speak, hear, read, and write sufficiently well to achieve adequate exchange of information with other healthcare professionals, patients, and their support network.

  • The student must have the ability to receive and process auditory information and speak and write clearly for all communications with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals.
  • The student must communicate effectively through written and electronic media.
  • The student must be able to communicate sensitively with patients and their families.
  • The student must be able to read sufficiently to comprehend complex medical literature and convey this information in easy to understand terms.
  • The student must be able to perceive forms of non-verbal interpersonal communications including facial expressions, body language, and affect.
  • Students must be able to communicate effectively in both academic and health care settings.

Motor and Tactile Function

  • A student must have sufficient motor function to directly perform palpation, percussion, auscultation, and other diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers.
  • A student must be able to execute movements reasonably required to provide general and emergency medical care to patients. These skills require coordination of fine and gross motor skills, equilibrium, and functional sensation.
  • A student must have the capability to manipulate equipment and instruments for the performance of basic laboratory tests and procedures.
  • A student must have the ability to move oneself from one setting to another and negotiate the patient care environment in a timely fashion.
  • A student must have sufficient physical stamina to perform the rigorous course of didactic and clinical study. This includes long periods of sitting, standing, and moving, which are required for classroom, laboratory, and clinical experiences.

Cognitive and Intellectual Function

A student must be able to demonstrate cognitive and problem-solving skills in a timely fashion necessary for medical problem solving and patient care. Problem solving is one of the critical skills demanded of physician assistants. It requires all of these intellectual abilities:

  • Comprehension of visual-spatial relationships.
  • Reading and understanding the medical literature and the patient’s chart.
  • Learning, measuring, calculating, retrieving, prioritizing, analyzing, organizing, assimilating, integrating, and synthesizing technically detailed and complex information and applying this information appropriately.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

  • The student must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment and the prompt completion of all academic and patient responsibilities.
  • The student must be able to work collaboratively and effectively as a member of a small group in class, as well as, with health care team members.
  • The student must have sufficient interpersonal skills to relate positively with people across society, including all ethnic backgrounds, economic levels, sexual orientation, and belief systems.
  • The student must possess compassion and concern for others, interest in, and motivation for service and integrity.
  • The student must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under mentally and emotionally stressful situations.
  • The student must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical practice.
  • The student must behave in an ethical and moral manner that is consistent with professional values.
  • The student must be able to accept constructive criticism and appropriately respond through modification of his/her behavior.

In the first year of the program, all PA students are required to attend all classes and educational sessions, master physical examinations skills, complete all laboratory exercises, attend assigned patient interactions, and complete BLS. In the clinical year, students must successfully complete all assigned rotations, which may include extended hours of instructions, evenings, nights, and weekends. Students must be able to transport themselves to all training sites. It is the responsibility of each applicant to affirm that they meet these technical standards upon entrance to the Physician Assistant Program. During enrollment, the program’s Promotion, Retention, and Disciplinary (PRD) committee will monitor students for continuing compliance with technical standards. The faculty of the Physician Assistant Program recognizes its responsibility to present candidates for the MSPAS degree that have the knowledge and skills to function in a wide variety of clinical situations and to render a broad spectrum of patient care.

American Disabilities Act

Bethel University is committed to equal opportunity in education for all students, including those with documented disabilities. If you have a diagnosed disability, or if you believe that you have a disability that might require reasonable accommodation in this program, please contact the Coordinator of Disability Services, at (731) 352-4225. Documentation of your disability and required forms from the Office of Disability Services must be completed before you receive accommodations each semester. Bethel University policy states that it is the responsibility of the student to contact instructors to discuss appropriate accommodations to ensure equity in grading, experiences, and assignments. Furthermore, the PA Program policy is students should report any disabilities to the office of Disability Services in a timely manner to receive accommodation. Any medically documented disability will be reported to the Program Director through Disability Services as necessary.

Disability accommodations must be accomplished without altering the essential requirements of our medical education. Any student with accessibility needs should contact the Office of Disability Services.