Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Competencies

The PA profession defines the specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes required and provides educational experiences as needed in order for physician assistants to acquire and demonstrate these competencies. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants endorses the following Profession Based PA competencies. Reference: Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).


The following represent the competencies that all GWU PA graduates will embody at the end of their training.


1.  The student will obtain and record a complete and accurate medical history from any patient in any setting.  Outcomes:  The student will:

1.01 - Establish effective rapport with patients and their families in a manner that will enhance the history taking process

1.02 - Obtain and record a complete and accurate chief complaint

1.03 - Obtain and record a complete and accurate history of the present illness that includes the symptom location, quantity, quality, timing, setting, aggravating and relieving factors, and other associated factors

1.04 - Obtain and record a complete past medical and surgical history, psychosocial history, and family history

1.05 - Obtain and record a comprehensive review of systems noting pertinent positive and negative findings as they relate to the history of present illness

1.06 - Obtain and record interval history pertaining to ongoing disease states

1.07 - Obtain a problem-focused history

1.08 - Obtain and record a follow-up history of an improved or deteriorating patient condition

1.09 - Obtain and record the medical history components from patient friends or family when necessary


2.  The student will perform a complete or problem-focused physical examination on any patient in any setting.  Outcomes: The student will:

2.01 - Demonstrate techniques of gaining patient confidence and providing reassurance about the examination in a manner that will enhance the collection of data and maintain patient dignity

2.02 - Distinguish normal from abnormal physical examination findings for males and females of any age group

2.03 - Demonstrate the appropriate use of the necessary instruments and tools for the physical examination with proper techniques that incorporate Universal Precautions

2.04 - Perform and record the findings from a comprehensive physical examination

2.05 - Demonstrate ability to alternate the sequence and content of the physical examination to correspond with the special needs of the patient and the presenting complaint

2.06 - Perform and record a problem-focused physical examination utilizing conventional formats and nomenclature


3.  The student will interpret and synthesize the information derived from the history, physical examination and other patient related data to guide the formulation of a thorough differential diagnosis.  Outcomes: The student will:

3.01 - Formulate a problem list and a differential diagnosis for each patient problem identified during patient encounters

3.02 - Demonstrate deductive reasoning skills in processing clinical data in the development of a differential diagnosis


4.  The student will order, perform and interpret appropriate diagnostic procedures and laboratory tests based upon the findings from the medical history and physical examination.   Outcomes:  Utilizing the data collected from the medical history and physical examination findings, the student will be able to:

4.01 - Utilize a problem list or differential diagnosis to identify the diagnostic procedures and laboratory studies that are indicated to aid in establishing the diagnosis

4.02 - Educate the patient about the benefits and risks associated with specific laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures

4.03 - Demonstrate the necessary skills and techniques to safely and properly collect specimens including, but not limited to:

  • Bacteriologic samples for culture, sensitivity or gram stain from various sources
  • Viral samples from various sources
  • Venous or arterial blood samples
  • Urine samples, sterile and non-sterile
  • Stool specimens
  • Tissue samples
  • Sputum sample

4.04 - Order, interpret the results and discuss the implications of laboratory tests including but not limited to:

  • Urinalysis by dipstick and microscopic examination
  • Glucose testing
  • Vaginal specimen
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Rapid strep screen
  • KOH prep for fungal infection
  • Prostate specific antigen
  • Complete blood count with differential
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive proteins
  • Stool for blood, ova, and parasites
  • Electrolytes, liver enyzmes, serum lipid profiles, hemoglobin A1c, and other communly utilized blood chemistries

 4.05 - Order, interpret and discuss the implications of diagnostic procedures, including but not limited to:

  • 12 Lead EKG
  • Rhythm Strips
  • Pulmonary function testing

 4.06 - Order and interpret radiologic studies of the head, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremities.

 4.07 - Outline the indications for and analyze the information provided by the following imaging modalities:

  • CT scans
  • MRI and MRA
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Angiography
  • Nuclear medicine studies
  • Ultrasound
  • DXA scan
  • Mammography

 4.08 - Identify the techniques and indications for bronchoscopy, upper endoscopy, colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy

 4.09 - Examine the techniques and outline the indications for thoracentesis, paracentesis, and lumbar puncture

 4.10 - Examine the techniques and outline the indications for an excisional biopsy, endometrial biopsy, arthrocentesis and joint injection

 4.11 - Outline the required preparation for imaging studies and office procedures


5.  The student will be able to identify, discuss, perform, and order appropriate therapy and treatment modalities for the management of commonly occurring primary care entities.  Outcomes:  The student will be able to:

5.01 - Distinguish between the various electrolyte solutions for intravenous therapy and indications for their use

5.02 - Outline the use of blood and blood products, indications, risks and potential complications

5.03 - Administer injections intra-dermally, subcutaneously, intravenously, and intramuscularly.

5.04 - Educate patients about nutritional requirements and the treatment of nutritionally related health problems

5.05 - Identify medications used for the treatment of medical conditions and their mechanism of action, metabolism, excretion, indications, contraindications, drug-drug interactions and potential side effects

5.06 - Manage non-pharmacologic treatment and follow-up of common medical conditions

5.07 - Prescribe medications as a part of patient management

5.08 - Identify and manage medication interactions and adverse effects

5.09 - Outline common complementary and alternative medicine modalities


6.  The student will be able to recognize life-threatening conditions.  Outcomes:  The student will be able to:

6.01 - Recognize emergency cardiovascular conditions, including life-threatening dysrhythmias, in patients of any age in any setting and initiate standard treatment according to Advanced Cardiac Life Support recommendations.

  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Establish hemostasis or control blood loss of hemorrhaging patients

6.02 - Recognize and treat patients with anaphylactic reactions, respiratory distress, drug overdose, accidental poisoning, envenomation, heat illness, dehydration, ocular emergencies, trauma, acute abdominal pain, gynecological and obstetrical emergencies, acute chest pain, pediatric emergencies, congestive heart failure, hypertensive crisis, seizure, altered mental status, alcohol intoxication, hyperglycemia, and diabetic ketoacidosis.

6.03 - Assist with or perform commonly encountered emergency procedures including but not limited to:

  • Endotracheal/nasogastric intubations
  • Defibrillation or cardioversion
  • Arterial and venous line placement


7.  The student will be able to clearly and effectively communicate with patients, their families, and other medical personnel in a professional manner.  Outcomes:  The student will:

7.01 - Present a systematic, clear and concise description of the patient's chief complaint, history of present illness, pertinent positive and negative findings, laboratory findings, diagnosis and treatment plan

7.02 - Discuss information and counsel patients regarding the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of common disorders in a manner that promotes understanding.

7.03 - Instruct patients about a variety of health education and disease prevention issues such as self-breast examination, self-testicular examination, skin cancer screening, exercise, weight management and smoking cessation.

7.04 - Create medical documentation using a widely accepted format including but not limited to:

  • Admit history and physical exam
  • Discharge summary
  • Progress notes
  • SOAP notes

7.05 - Clearly and effectively communicate in a respectful manner with individuals from diverse cultures, religions, and various lifestyles

7.06 - Provide age appropriate anticipatory guidance for patients and their families across the lifespan

7.07 - Effectively and professionally communicate bad news to patients and their families.

7.08 - Facilitate communication between patients and their families about issues relating to end of life decision-making

  • Advanced directives
  • Grieving processes


8.  The student will be able to demonstrate the impact that health problems have on the individual and family members and will develop an attitude of professional concern for each patient.  Outcomes:  The student will:

8.01 - Discuss the physical, psychological, social, and economic impact that health problems create for patients and their families

8.02 - Appraise patient encounters from an objective perspective necessary for rational assessment and treatment of the patient’s health problems

8.03 - Recognize the importance of preventative health care education for patients to prevent future disease states

8.04 - Discuss difficulties encountered by patients attempting to adhere to prescribed therapeutic regimens and treatment plans

8.05 - Recognize the right of the patient as a health care consumer to be informed regarding their physical status, therapy, costs, therapeutic alternatives, prognosis, and services available

8.06 - Recognize the patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality and treating privileged information with professional discretion


9.  The student will be able to utilize critical thinking skills through the use of evidence-based medicine.  Outcomes:  The student will:

9.01 - Transfer clinical information needs into answerable clinical questions

9.02 - Identify the best available evidence to answer clinical questions

9.03 - Critically evaluate the available clinical evidence for its validity and usefulness

9.04 - Apply the findings of the appraisals to the specific clinical scenarios/questions

9.05 - Demonstrate skills necessary for life-long learning


10.  The student will be able to articulate the unique role of the physician assistant in the medical team. Outcomes:  The student will:

10.01 - Adhere to the tenants of ethical medical practice as a PA

10.02 - Articulate the collegial and interdependent relationship of the PA and the physician

10.03 - Integrate the role of the PA with the roles of other members of the interdisciplinary health care team

10.04 - Explain the legal responsibilities of the PA-patient relationship

10.05 - Articulate an understanding of the history and milestones of the PA profession

10.06 - Describe the mechanisms of licensure, certification and recertification for the PA profession


11.  The students will possess a working knowledge of the American health care delivery system.  Outcomes:  The student will:

11.01 - Utilize community resources in health care delivery

11.02 - Coordinate health care services including, but not limited to:

  • Care provided by multiple providers
  • Specialty consultations and referrals
  • Consultations with other members of the health care team
  • Complementary and alternative health care
  • Ancillary services

11.03 - Employ risk management practices including continuous quality assurance

11.04 - Utilize best practices to minimize the risk of medical malpractice

11.05 - Utilize and employ current knowledge of reimbursement issues including documentation, coding and billing practices


12.  The students will exhibit ethical behavior and professional conduct.  Outcomes:  The student will:

12.01 - Provide competent, compassionate and respectful medical service to all patients

12.02 - Display honesty with patients and colleagues

12.03 - Respond appropriately to persons of the health care team who exhibit impairment, lack of professional conduct or competence, or who engage in fraud or deception

12.04 - Demonstrate a commitment to maintaining clinical competence

12.05 - Comply with established principles governing intellectual honesty