PA Curriculum

GW Hospital Entrance

The Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) degree is granted after completion of the two-year program, which prepares students for a physician assistant (PA) career. The curriculum emphasizes a strong foundation in medicine, development of organizational and critical-thinking skills, and utilization of evidence-based medicine. Successful completion of all courses listed below is required to both receive the MSHS degree and to be eligible to take the NCCPA PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE).

Year 1 Academic Phase

During the first year, students learn foundational medical sciences, clinical medicine, clinical skills (medical interviewing, physical exam and clinical procedures), population health and justice, PA professional practice and evidence-based medicine. The curriculum is taught by expert professors in the classroom via lecture, basic science and clinical laboratories, small group seminar sessions and blended learning (hybrid online and in-person sessions). Students are evaluated on their development of clinical acumen and competence using multiple-choice exams, practical lab sessions/simulation (Anatomy and Clinical Skills and Assessment courses), oral case presentations, written assignments, and standardized patient clinical encounters (OSCE exams).

Semester 1 

Course Number

Course Title Credit Hours
PA 6101 Clinical Assessment I 4
PA 6104 Integration into Clinical Concepts I 2
PA 6109 Foundations of Medicine 5
PA 6110 Evidence-Based Practice for PA Students* 3
PHYL 6211 Physiology for Health Sciences Students 3
ANAT 6215 Anatomy for Health Sciences Students 3
  Total Semester Credits 20

Semester 2

Course Number

Course Title Credit Hours
PA 6102 Clinical Assessment II 1
PA 6105 Integration into Clinical Concepts II 2
PA 6112 Clinical Medicine I 7
PA 6116 Clinical Skills I 2
PA 6118 Health, Justice & Society I 2
PA 6120 Human Behavior 2
PA 6122 Role of PA in American Health Care 2
PHAR 6207 Basic Principles of Pharmacology 2
  Total Semester Credits 20

Semester 3 

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours
PA 6103 Clinical Assessment III 1
PA 6106 Integration into Clinical Concepts III 2
PA 6113 Clinical Medicine II 7
PA 6117 Clinical Skills II 1
PA 6119 Health, Justice & Society II 1
PA 6121 Clinical Specialties 6
PHAR 6208 Pharm in Dis. Pathophysiology 2
  Total Semester Credits 20
  Academic Year Total Credits 60

*The program offers advanced standing for the PA 6110, Evidence-Based Practice for PA Students course to select students who graduated from a CEPH-accredited Master in Public Health degree program prior to PA school, if the student received a minimum grade of B in biostatistics and epidemiology courses. Students must request advanced standing in writing to the Program Director per instructions listed in the Student Handbook. If granted, the student will complete the 1-credit PA 6111 Evidence-Based Practice for PA/MPH course as a substitute for the 3-credits PA 6110 course. 

Year 2 Clinical Phase

In the second year, students apply their knowledge and practice their new skills in the clinical environment in the 8 clinical rotations (7-mandatory Clinical Practica and 1-elective Clinical Practicum). The Introduction to Clinical Education prepares students to shift from classroom learning to learning at the patient bedside. Students rotate through a variety of clinical settings including inpatient (hospital), outpatient clinics, emergency departments and operating rooms. Students work as a part of a supervised medical team, comprised of physicians, PAs, and nurse practitioners that cares for the patients. Students are expected to elicit medical histories, complete physical exams, suggest diagnostic tests, and treatment plans to the medical team. Students practice presenting the patients to the team and documenting the patient encounter in the medical record. The Introduction to Professional Practice course provides instruction about licensure, certification, credentialing and scope of practice laws. In addition to rotating through the specialities listed below, all students will care for patients of all ages ranging from newborns to geriatric patients. Evaluation of student competence is comprised of preceptor evaluations, end-of-rotation exams, presentations, and clinical course specific assignments.

Students are required to have a car available for transportation to clinical sites. If the clinical site is outside a radius of 65 miles from the GW campus, housing is provided as well. The program permits "Self ID" rotations in which students may suggest possible rotations sites outside of the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas. Please note several of our sites serve Spanish speaking patients; if your application indicates proficiency in Spanish communication, it is likely you will be placed at one of these sites.

Sites are vetted by the clinical faculty through a rigorous approval process before a student is permitted to rotate through a "Self ID" site. Consistent with the ARC-PA accreditation Standards, students are not required to provide or solicit clinical preceptors or sites. The specific order of clinical courses varies by student, but all students must successfully complete all rotations in order to be eligible for graduation and the PA national certification exam

Semesters 4 - 6 

Course Number

Course Title Credit Hours
PA 6259 Introduction to Clinical Education 2
PA 6261 Inpatient Medicine Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6262 Primary Care Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6263 Surgical Inpatient Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6264 Women's Health Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6265 Pediatrics Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6266 Emergency Medicine Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6267 Behavioral Medicine Clinical Practicum 5
PA 6268 Elective Clinical Practicum  5
PA 6300 Introduction to Professional Practice 2
  Clinical Year Total Credits 44
  Program Total Credits 104

Complete Course Descriptions