medical students smiling at a conference table

There are two curricula in the GW PA program: the PA curriculum and the PA/MPH curriculum. Students accepted to the PA program complete the PA curriculum in its entirety in two years. The joint degree PA/MPH students start with the public health portion of their education and then join the PA curriculum in the three-year program. Students in the joint degree PA/MPH program choose a public health concentration prior to matriculation. No matter the degree program chosen, we consider it essential for all physician assistant graduates to have the necessary knowledge, skills and professional behaviors to practice medicine in a variety of clinical settings and provide a wide spectrum of whole patient care. In order to achieve these goals, the following Program Competencies were developed to guide both curriculum design and student acquisition of knowledge and skills. These competencies, modeled on the Competencies of the PA Profession, form the basis of student assessments both during the academic and clinical phases of the program, as well as program completion (summative) evaluations.

PA Program Competencies

Entry-level physician assistants must demonstrate competence performing a variety of clinically relevant functions and tasks at the end of the PA program. According to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA), competencies are defined as "the knowledge; interpersonal, clinical, and technical skills; professional behaviors; and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for physician assistant practice." These competencies are essential to preparing graduates to provide preventive, emergent, acute, and chronic care across various health care settings. Upon completion of the George Washington University Physician Assistant Program, graduates are expected to:

Medical Knowledge
  • Describe the pertinent anatomy, pathophysiology, etiology, epidemiology, risk factors, clinical presentation, differential diagnoses, diagnostic workup, treatment plan, and prognosis of medical and surgical conditions. (MK1)
  • Integrate core knowledge from the biomedical and clinical sciences with patient data to provide appropriate patient care. (MK2)
  • Apply an evidence-based and analytical approach to clinical situations. (MK3)
Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange with patients, their families, physicians, professional associates, and other members of the health care team. (ICS1)
Patient Care
  • Elicit appropriate patient histories and competently perform physical examination as well as other clinical and technical skills considered essential in the area of practice. (PC1)
  • Demonstrate the ability to work effectively with physicians and other members of the health care team to provide patient-centered care. (PC2)
  • Plan and administer care that is effective, age-appropriate, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable for the treatment of health problems and the promotion of wellness. (PC3)
  • Recognize professional and personal limitations and exhibit a commitment to ongoing professional development. (PR1)
  • Employ responsible and ethical practices, sensitivity to a diverse patient population, and adherence to legal and regulatory requirements in the delivery of patient care. (PR2)
Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Critically analyze the medical literature and individual practice experiences in order to improve patient care. (PBL1)
Systems-Based Practice
  • Demonstrate an understanding of, and responsiveness to societal, organizational, and economic factors that impact the provision of optimal patient care within the larger health care system. (SBP1)