program competencies

Competencies are summative in nature and defined as “the medical knowledge, interpersonal, clinical and technical skills, professional behaviors, and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for PA practice” (ARC-PA, 2020). 

  1. Medical Knowledge and Patient Care
  2. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  3. Clinical and technical skills
  4. Professional behaviors
  5. Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities

Medical Knowledge and Patient Care 

Medical knowledge includes the synthesis of pathophysiology, patient presentation, differential diagnosis, patient management, surgical principles, health promotion, and disease prevention. Physician assistants must demonstrate core knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care in their area of practice. In addition, physician assistants are expected to demonstrate an investigative and analytic thinking approach to clinical situations. Patient care includes patient- and setting-specific assessment, evaluation, and management. Physician assistants must demonstrate care that is effective, safe, high quality, and equitable (AAPA, 2012, & PAEA, 2018). 

At the conclusion of the program, students will have attained the following competencies: 

1.1 Obtain and interpret a comprehensive, detailed and accurate history from a patient.

1.2 Perform the appropriate comprehensive or problem-focused physical examination of a patient. 

 Synthesize history and physical exam findings with diagnostic studies to formulate differential diagnoses.

 Order, analyze, and interpret the appropriate diagnostic studies to formulate differential diagnoses and implement management plans. 

Apply medical knowledge to the etiologies, risk factors, underlying pathologic process, and epidemiology for medical conditions in any given patient. 

Apply knowledge of the basic sciences to patient care.

 Recognize signs and symptoms of medical and surgical conditions.

 Develop management plans for general medical and surgical conditions to include pharmacologic and other treatment modalities. 

  Maintain on-going critical evaluation of medical literature for current practice guidelines and apply the principles of evidence-based medicine to patient care for the proper diagnosis and management of disease.   

 Apply the appropriate screening methods to detect conditions in an asymptomatic individual and administer interventions for prevention of disease and health promotion/maintenance. 


Interpersonal & Communication Skills

Interpersonal and communication skills encompass the verbal, nonverbal, written, and electronic exchange of information. Physician assistants must demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange with patients, patients’ families, physicians, professional associates, and other individuals within the health care system (AAPA, 2012). 

At the conclusion of the program, students will have attained the following competencies: 

2.1 Use effective communication skills to elicit and present pertinent, well-organized patient information to members of the healthcare team.

2.2 Work effectively and collaboratively with physicians and other health care professionals as a member or leader of a health care team to provide patient-centered care. 

 Communicate and interact appropriately with members of the healthcare team, patients, families, peers, staff, and the public.

 Apply empathetic listening and establish rapport when dealing with patients, patients’ families, and/or caregivers. 

 Counsel and educate patients and their families in an effort to develop a meaningful and therapeutic relationship. 

2.6 Demonstrate emotional resilience and stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity and anxiety; adapt communication style to the context of the interaction. 

Clinical and technical skills 

Physician assistants must have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care. PAs must maintain the intellectual ability and emotional stability, particularly when under stress. Having physical and mental stamina is imperative for a PA to provide quality patient care.

At the conclusion of the program, students will have attained the following competencies: 

3.1 Perform health histories and physical examinations in patients across the lifespan. 

 Perform safely and competently the appropriate diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures associated with the management of medical and minor surgical conditions. 

Perform safely and competently medical and surgical procedures essential for diagnostic and treatment interventions without limitations.  

 Demonstrate adherence to standards of care, which is to have a sense of urgency when dealing with patients, treating patients with dignity, having good communication skills, listening to a patients’ needs, and following a code of ethics. 

Promote a safe environment for patient care that integrates risk management and the prevention of medical errors or spread of infection. 

 Use information technology to support patient care decisions and patient education.


Professional Behaviors 

Professional characteristics include acting with integrity, being competent, behaving responsibly, and expressing positive values and ideals as patient care is delivered. Physician assistants should be altruistic in nature and have self-awareness of their professional and personal limitations. Professionalism also requires that PAs practice without impairment from substance abuse, cognitive deficiency or mental illness. Physician assistants must demonstrate a high level of responsibility, ethical practice, sensitivity to a diverse patient population, and adherence to legal and regulatory requirements (AAPA, 2012).  

At the conclusion of the program, students will have attained the following competencies: 

4.1 Demonstrate compassionate and respectful behaviors when interacting with patients and 
their families.

4.2 Adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards while responding with sensitivity to diverse patient populations. 

 Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning of continual medical education and professional development. 

 Understand the legal and regulatory requirements of the PA profession and the PA role. 

 Maintain professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers. 

4.6 Maintain and respect confidentiality of patient information, informed patient consent, and business practices. 

 Promote healthy behaviors, life balance, self-reflection, initiative, and critical curiosity in all endeavors. 

 Recognize and appropriately address personal biases, gaps in medical knowledge, and mental and physical limitations in self and others. 

 Respect the autonomy of patients while maintaining accountability and demonstrating beneficence and non-maleficence.

 Document accurate and adequate information regarding patient care for medical, legal, quality assurance, and financial purposes.

 Exercise cultural humility.

Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities 

Problem-solving and diagnosis are critical skills demanded of physician assistants and require the intellectual skills and abilities of measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis. 
Physician assistants must engage in critical analysis and bring an investigative mind to clinical situations.

At the conclusion of the program, students will have attained the following competencies: 

5.1 Understand logical connections and engage in reflective and independent thinking demonstrating problem-solving in clinical practice. 

5.2 Make decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions based on patient 
information and preferences, current scientific evidence, and informed clinical judgment.   

 Demonstrate critical thinking when synthesizing patient information to develop reasonable judgments on their care and management. 

 Understand complex patient presentations.

5.5 Analyze one’s own strengths and weaknesses in the approach to patient care. 

 Be able to work autonomously while realizing the necessity at times for consult or referral. 

Program Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are defined as “the medical knowledge, interpersonal, clinical and technical skills, professional behaviors, and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities that have been attained by the student at the completion of a curricular component, course, or program”
(ARC-PA, 2020).

  1. Competently address a patient’s chief complaint by eliciting a focused and/or comprehensive patient history and conducting a focused and/or comprehensive physical exam.
    (Competency 1: Medical Knowledge and Patient Care; Competency 5: Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities)
  2. Develop a differential diagnosis for medical and behavioral problems seen in a primary care setting based on fundamental knowledge of the basic and clinical sciences.
    (Competency 1: Medical Knowledge and Patient Care; Competency 5: Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities)
  3. Apply critical-thinking principles to patient care using current medical literature and evidence-based medicine to order and interpret the proper diagnostic studies and recommend treatments.
    (Competency 3: Clinical and Technical skills; Competency 5: Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities)
  4. Implement health maintenance and disease prevention screening and counseling to patients across the lifespan. (Competency 1: Medical Knowledge and Patient Care; Competency 2: Interpersonal and Communication Skills)
  5. As a collaborative member of the healthcare team, accurately and concisely communicate in both oral and written forms, patient encounters and their outcomes.
    (Competency 2: Interpersonal and Communication Skills)
  6. Communicate effectively and respectfully with patients, families and caregivers while considering a patient’s emotional state, culture, and/or socioeconomic background for shared medical decision-making.
    (Competency 2: Interpersonal and Communication Skills; Competency 4: Professional behaviors)
  7. Develop, implement, and monitor management plans for patients across the life span and in a variety of health care delivery settings with emergent, acute, chronic, and ongoing conditions.
    (Competency 1: Medical Knowledge and Patient Care, Competency 3: Clinical and Technical skills; Competency 5: Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities)
  8. Perform clinical and medical interventions as necessary to include diagnostic procedures, surgery, counseling, therapeutic procedures, and rehabilitative therapies. Obtain informed consent for such tests and/or procedures as needed.
    (Competency 3: Clinical and Technical skills, Competency 4: Professional behaviors; Competency 5: Clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities)
  9. Demonstrate behaviors consistent with the highest ethical and legal standards.
    (Competency 4: Professional behaviors) 

AAPA. (2012). Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession. Adopted by ARC-PA, NCCPA, and PAEA.  

ARC-PA. (2020 November). Syllabi, Program Competencies, Learning Outcomes & Instructional Objectives, Standards 5th edition: A guide for PA program faculty.

PAEA. (2018 September). Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates. 



The Franklin Pierce University Physician Assistant Hybrid Program has applied for Accreditation-Provisional status with the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The Franklin Pierce University Physician Assistant Hybrid Program anticipates matriculating its first class in June 2022, pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the March 2022 ARC-PA meeting. 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.

In the event that the program does not achieve accreditation all students who have deposited a seat in the program will receive a full refund. The program will not accept the class until which time provisional accreditation has been granted.