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Student Learning Outcomes

Our outcomes are guided by the Competencies for the Physician Assistant Profession document published by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. The purpose of that document is to communicate to the PA profession and to the public a set of competencies that all physician assistants, regardless of specialty or setting, are expected to acquire and maintain throughout their careers. The competencies provide a road map for the individual PA, the physician-PA team and PA-related professional organizations. These competencies also mirror the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) competencies for the medical resident.

The outcomes our graduate physician assistant students will demonstrate:

Medical Knowledge

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. Physician assistants are expected to understand, evaluate, and apply the following to clinical scenarios:

  • evidence-based medicine
  • scientific principles related to patient care
  • etiologies, risk factors, underlying pathologic process, and epidemiology for medical conditions
  • signs and symptoms of medical and surgical conditions
  • appropriate diagnostic studies
  • management of general medical and surgical conditions to include pharmacologic and other treatment modalities
  • interventions for prevention of disease and health promotion/maintenance
  • screening methods to detect conditions in an asymptomatic individual
  • history and physical findings and diagnostic studies to formulate differential diagnoses

Interpersonal and Communications 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. Physician assistants are expected to:

  • create and sustain a therapeutic and ethically sound relationship with patients
  • use effective communication skills to elicit and provide information
  • adapt communication style and messages to the context of the interaction
  • work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals as a member or leader of a health care team or other professional group
  • demonstrate emotional resilience and stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity and anxiety
  • accurately and adequately document information regarding care for medical, legal, quality, and financial purposes

Patient Care

Patient care includes patient- and setting-specific assessment, evaluation, and management. Physician assistants must demonstrate care that is effective, safe, high quality, and equitable. Physician assistants are expected to:

  • work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals to provide patient- centered care
  • demonstrate compassionate and respectful behaviors when interacting with patients and their families
  • obtain essential and accurate information about their patients
  • make decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions based on patient information and preferences, current scientific evidence, and informed clinical judgment
  • develop and implement patient management plans
  • counsel and educate patients and their families
  • perform medical and surgical procedures essential to their area of practice
  • provide health care services and education aimed at disease prevention and health maintenance
  • use information technology to support patient care decisions and patient education


Professionalism is the expression of positive values and ideals as care is delivered. Foremost, it involves prioritizing the interests of those being served above one’s own. Physician assistants must acknowledge 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. Physician assistants are expected to demonstrate:

  • understanding of legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the appropriate role of the physician assistant
  • professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers
  • respect, compassion, and integrity
  • accountability to patients, society, and the profession
  • commitment to excellence and on-going professional development
  • commitment to ethical principles pertaining to provision or withholding of clinical care, confidentiality of patient information, informed consent, and business practices
  • sensitivity and responsiveness to patients’ culture, age, gender, and abilities
  • self-reflection, critical curiosity, and initiative
  • healthy behaviors and life balance
  • commitment to the education of students and other health care professionals

Practice-based Learning and Improvement

Practice-based learning and improvement includes the processes through which physician assistants engage in critical analysis of their own practice experience, the medical literature, and other information resources for the purposes of self- and practice-improvement. Physician assistants must be able to assess, evaluate, and improve their patient care practices. Physician assistants are expected to:

  • analyze practice experience and perform practice-based improvement activities using a systematic methodology in concert with other members of the health care delivery team
  • locate, appraise, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients’ health
  • apply knowledge of study designs and statistical methods to the appraisal of clinical literature and other information on diagnostic and therapeutic effectiveness
  • utilize information technology to manage information, access medical information, and support their own education
  • recognize and appropriately address personal biases, gaps in medical knowledge, and physical limitations in themselves and others

Systems-based Practice

Systems-based practice encompasses the societal, organizational, and economic environments in which health care is delivered. Physician assistants must demonstrate an awareness of and responsiveness to the larger system of health care to provide patient care that balances quality and cost, while maintaining the primacy of the individual patient. PAs should work to improve the health care system of which their practices are a part. Physician assistants are expected to:

  • effectively interact with different types of medical practice and delivery systems
  • understand the funding sources and payment systems that provide coverage for patient care and use the systems effectively
  • practice cost-effective health care and resource allocation that does not compromise quality of care
  • advocate for quality patient care and assist patients in dealing with system complexities
  • partner with supervising physicians, health care managers, and other health care providers to assess, coordinate, and improve the delivery and effectiveness of health care and patient outcomes
  • accept responsibility for promoting a safe environment for patient care and recognizing and correcting systems-based factors that negatively impact patient care
  • apply medical information and clinical data systems to provide effective, efficient patient care
  • recognize and appropriately address system biases that contribute to health care disparities
  • apply the concepts of population health to patient care

Adopted 2012 by ARC-PA, NCCPA, and PAEA
Adopted 2013 by AAPA

In addition to the above NCCPA and AAPA competencies, the UTHSC PA Program also provides education and training to meet the 2019 PAEA Core Competencies for New PA Graduates.

Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge

  • Recognize normal and abnormal health states
  • Discern among acute, chronic, and emerging disease states
  • Elicit and understand the stories of individual patients and apply the context of their lives (including environmental influences, cultural norms, socioeconomic factors, and beliefs) when determining healthy versus ill patients
  • Develop meaningful, therapeutic relationships with patients and their families
  • Determine differential diagnosis, order interpret laboratory and imaging, perform necessary core duty procedures, diagnose, treat and manage illness
  • Partner with patients to address issues of ongoing signs, symptoms, or health concerns that remain over time without clear diagnosis despite evaluation and treatment

Society and Population Health

  • Recognize the cultural norms, needs, influences, and socioeconomic, environmental, and other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual and community being served
  • Recognize the potential impacts of the community, biology, and genetics on patients and incorporate them into decisions of care
  • Demonstrate accountability and responsibility for removing barriers to health, such as health literacy
  • Understand the role of structural disparities in causing illness
  • Engage members of the health care team in the surveillance of community resources to sustain and improve health
  • Engage the health care team in determining the adequacy of individual and community resources
  • Reflect on personal and professional limitations in providing care
  • Elicit and hear the story of the individual and apply the context of the individual’s life (including environmental influences, culture, and disease) when determining healthy versus ill patients
  • Understand and apply the fundamental principles of epidemiology
  • Recognize the value of the work of monitoring and reporting for quality improvement
  • Use appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions on patient care

Health Literacy and Communication

  • Establish meaningful therapeutic relationships with patients and families that allow for a deeper connection and create space for exploration of the patients’ needs and goals to deliver culturally competent care
  • Interpret information so that patients can understand and make meaning out of the information conveyed to them
  • Recognize the need for and governing mandates that ensure patients have access to unbiased, professional interpreters and appropriate resources when barriers to communication arise
  • Demonstrate insight and understanding about emotions and human responses to emotions that allow one to develop and manage interpersonal interactions
  • Communicate effectively with patients, families, and the public
  • Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs
  • Organize and communicate information with patients, families, community members, and health team members in a form that is understandable, avoiding discipline-specific terminology when possible, and checking to ensure understanding

Interprofessional Collaboration Practice and Leadership

  • Articulate one’s role and responsibilities to patients, families, communities, and other professionals
  • Advocate for the focus of the health care team being on the needs of the patient
  • Assure patients that they are being heard
  • Ensure patients’ needs are the focus over self and others
  • Contribute to the creation, dissemination, application, and translation of new health care knowledge and practices
  • Recognize when referrals are needed and make them to the appropriate health care provider
  • Coordinate care
  • Develop relationships and effectively communicate with physicians, other health professionals, and health care teams
  • Use the full scope of knowledge, skills, and abilities of available health professionals to provide care that is safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable
  • Use unique and complementary abilities of all members of the team to optimize health and patient care 
  • Engage diverse professionals who complement one’s own professional expertise, as well as associated resources, to develop strategies to meet specific health and health care needs of patients and populations
  • Describe how professionals in health and other fields can collaborate and integrate clinical care and public health interventions to optimize population health 

Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care

  • Articulate standard of care practice
  • Admit mistakes and errors
  • Participate in difficult conversations with patients and colleagues
  • Recognize one’s limits and establish healthy boundaries to support healthy partnerships
  • Demonstrate respect for the dignity and privacy of patients while maintaining confidentiality in the delivery of team-based care
  • Demonstrate responsiveness to patient needs that supersedes self interest
  • Demonstrate accountability to patients, society, and the profession
  • Exhibit an understanding of the regulatory environment
  • Health Care Finance and Systems
  • Recognize financial implications to the provision of healthcare
  • Articulate individual providers’ value-add to the health care team in terms of cost
  • Appreciate the value of the collaborative physician/PA relationship
  • Understand different types of health systems, funding streams, and insurance, including the role of Medicare and Medicare as payors

Health Care Finance and Systems

  • Recognize financial implications to the provision of healthcare
  • Articulate individual providers’ value-add to the health care team in terms of cost
  • Appreciate the value of the collaborative physician/PA relationship
  • Understand different types of health systems, funding streams, and insurance, including the role of Medicare and Medicare as payors
Mar 8, 2023