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Physician Assistant Program -  Technical Standards

Part of the mission of University of the Sciences states that through academic and personal development, our graduates will gain the intellectual, cultural, and ethical understanding and awareness necessary to become leaders and innovators in a global society.

Along with the University, the PA program strives to create a safe and welcoming environment that embraces differences.  University of the Sciences in Philadelphia recognizes that a diverse campus community is essential to enriching intellectual exchanges and enhancing cultural understanding, and as such, values equality of opportunity, mutual respect, and diversity.  The University does not discriminate in admission, employment or administration of its programs on the basis of gender, age, disability, race, religion, creed, national origin, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or in violation of federal, state and local laws or executive orders.

Accreditation standards require that admission criteria into a PA program are established by the PA program faculty but must include Technical Standards for Admission developed by the accrediting agency, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Technical Standards

The technical standards that are defined within this document are meant to serve as a guide to students in the program.  Upon completion of their degree, students will be prepared to serve as competent, well rounded, and skilled PA’s, providing medical services with the supervision of a doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine in accordance with applicable laws of medical practice. The services must, for the safety and welfare of the patient, be of the same professional quality that would be rendered by the supervising physician. The PA must have the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care.

PA’s must be skilled in the art of history taking, which incorporates the following:

  • the ability to approach and effectively communicate with patients of any age, race, gender, or creed in order to take detailed and accurate histories, and record such history in a meaningful manner.  Hand in hand with the ability to take a history are the ability to do the following:
    • speak English fluently and clearly in order to better serve the patients he/she will come in contact with
    • be able to adjust the level and clarity with which he/she relates to their patient's level of communication and understanding
    • have exceptional verbal and written communication skills

All candidates for the PA profession must have somatic sensation and the functional use of the five senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch (including pain and temperature). As well  the functional use of the senses of equilibrium and sufficient motor function to carry out activities defined below are required. These senses are vital to quality diagnostic skills. In addition, the individual is expected to possess the ability to perceive pain, pressure, temperature, position, equilibrium, and movement. The PA profession requires using the senses consistently, efficiently, and accurately. All data received by the senses must be integrated, analyzed, and synthesized in a consistent and accurate manner.

A student also must be able to transport themselves from one location to another in a timely fashion in order to facilitate patient care responsibilities and receive educational training.

A candidate for the PA program must have abilities and skills which are outlined in the sections that follow. Technological compensation can be made for some disabilities in certain areas, but such a candidate should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner.


A PA student is expected to use high levels of intelligence, judgment, honesty, and reason at all times in a variety of settings both academic and professional.  Academic integrity, confidentiality, and the ability to maintain composure in all situations is also an invaluable part of the characteristics expected.


The student is expected to participate in and observe demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences including but not limited to physiologic and pharmacological demonstrations in animals, microbiological cultures and microscopic study of organisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states.

The student is expected to observe patients at a distance and close at hand and accurately assess health/illness alteration. Inherent in this observation process is the use of the senses and sufficient motor capability to carry out the necessary assessment activities.


To be successful all students must be able to speak, hear, and observe patients and members of their healthcare team in order to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Students should also be able to adequately and accurately describe changes in mood, activity, and postures, and perceive nonverbal communications in order to elicit information from their patient. Students are expected to clearly and accurately record information, speak fluent English, and communicate sensitively with patients, families, and other professionals. The student is expected to have the emotional stability required to exercise sound judgment and complete assessment and intervention activities. In addition, all students should practice skills required to establish rapport with groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds. All students should also have the flexibility to function effectively and professionally in stressful situations and environments. Concern for others, integrity, accountability, interest, and motivation are all necessary personal qualities.


The student is expected to be able to perform gross and fine motor movements required to complete physical examinations and to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers. The student is expected to have the psychomotor skills necessary to perform or assist with procedures, treatments, administration of medication, emergency intervention, and management of equipment. The student is expected to be able to maintain consciousness and equilibrium, and have stamina to perform satisfactorily in clinical experiences. Students are also required to execute the appropriate motor movements required to provide general care as well as emergency treatment to patients.  Lastly, the student must be able to do laboratory tests, and work with scientific and other instruments / machinery utilized in practice.


Students will be required to have effective and efficient learning techniques and habits that allow them to master the complex PA curriculum. The student is expected to have the ability to develop and refine problem solving skills, including the ability to measure, calculate, analyze, and synthesize objective as well as subjective data .  Students must be able to make decisions that reflect consistent and thoughtful deliberation and clinical judgment. The ability to interpret and comprehend spatial relationships and three-dimensional models is also key.

Students must be able to participate in all forms of learning including classroom instruction, small group activities and workshops, writing and presenting reports, and utilizing computer and other technology.


A student must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his/her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. In addition to physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress, the student must be able to adapt to changing environments both in the classroom and in future professional situations.  Students must display flexibility compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation. These personal qualities will be assessed during the admissions and educational process.

The PA Program also has an ethical responsibility for the safety of patients with whom students will come into contact both before and after graduation. Therefore, patient safety is a major factor in establishing requirements for physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities of candidates for admission, progression, and graduation.


Punctuality, courtesy, and respect are core components of the professional expectations of all PA students.  Participating in the program means acknowledging that classes, rotations, and required events may involve attendance during any hour of the day and any day of the week. Students are required to be available to attend any learning/teaching session held during any of the twenty-four hours of the day, seven days of the week. Additionally, students must be willing to relocate for preceptorships, which can be assigned in any of the contiguous states.

Regardless of class schedule and meeting times, a level of professional and appropriate dress is expected at all times.  This includes adhering to faculty requests for specific dress for the purpose of physical examination practice (e.g. gym shorts, tee shirt, sports bra, or other attire as necessary) and the expectation to wear business or business casual attire as appropriate for site visits, rotations, interviews, and department social functions.

In addition, a core component and competency of PA medical education is using touch for diagnosis , therapeutic purposes, and treatment.  A skilled PA is able to put aside cultural and/or religious beliefs and observances which would normally prohibit physical examinations requiring appropriate exposure in order to accurately and thoroughly diagnose all manner of diseases. To this end, students are required to touch others and to be touched.  As part of the learning process, students are also required to participate in physical examination by fellow students in a respectful and professional manner. This physical examination is critical to learning the skills required of practicing PAs; therefore, it is mandatory that all matriculating students understand and accept these responsibilities. These responsibilities include allowing other students to see /touch them so that all become proficient in physical examination and diagnosis and participating vice versa to gain proficiency.

Lastly, as stated earlier, all PA students must possess those intellectual, ethical, physical, and emotional capabilities necessary to undertake and achieve levels of competence in the full curriculum required by the faculty. An avowed intention to practice only a narrow part of clinical medicine does not alter the requirement that all students take and achieve full competence in the full curriculum.

Special Accommodations

Different cultures and religions are a natural part of our diverse culture.  The university community will make reasonable accommodations to students with specific needs with regards to religious and cultural observances.

In addition, the university is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to all members of the University community who have documented disabilities and Individuals with learning and/or physical disabilities are encouraged to apply to the program.

Two pieces of legislation, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the programs, services and activities of public entities, including post-secondary institutions. The University is therefore mandated both philosophically and legally to provide reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified individuals. This applies to virtually all aspects of campus activities, including employment, academic studies, student programming, and services provided to the community at large. University’s reasonable accommodation process is to provide reasonable support to meet the individual needs of this diverse population, which includes faculty, staff, prospective and enrolled students, and others involved in the University’s services and programs. Accommodations may be altered based on the individual’s needs, changes in the law, or changes in the University’s curriculum, programs, job requirements or services.

Students are required to notify the department chair in writing (with medical documentation, address and telephone number listed of provider) and verbally if there is any reason why the abilities and/or expectations described cannot be met. Students who indicate verbally and in writing (with medical documentation) that they cannot meet one or more of these requirements will be reviewed by the Departmental Faculty in conjunction with the Office of Academic Accommodations to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations might be possible to facilitate successful completion of the degree requirements should they be admitted to the program.

Upon admission, students should contact the Office of Academic Accommodations at 215-596-7530 to obtain any further support needed.

Admission Contact:

Katherine Jackson, MA
Admissions and Assessment Coordinator

Office Location:

IPEX, 2nd floor


University of the Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495




General Contact:

Angela Flowers, Administrative Coordinator

Office Location:

IPEX, 2nd floor


University of the Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495