Minimum Technical Standards for Admissions, Continuation, and Graduation
Technical standards are defined as the attributes considered necessary for students to complete their education and training and subsequently enter clinical practice. These standards are prerequisites for entrance to, continuation within, and graduation from the Austin College Physician Assistant (PA) Program. They may also be prerequisites to licensure by state professional boards. Reasonable accommodation will be offered for persons with disabilities in conjunction with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Competency in technical standards will be assessed regularly throughout the Program. The Program has the ethical responsibility for the safety of patients with whom students and graduates will come in contact, and to the public to assure that its graduates can become fully competent PAs. Thus, it is critical that persons admitted to the PA Program possess the intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian concern, and physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice medicine. Students must verify that they meet these Technical Standards prior to or at the time of matriculation to the PA Program and maintain them during their PA training. Students are obligated to alert the PA Program in a timely fashion of any change in their ability to meet the Technical Standards. Students are subject to dismissal if they do not possess the minimum physical or cognitive abilities, or sufficient mental or emotional stability to complete the entire course of study; if they do not participate fully in all aspects of PA training; if they are not deployable as competent PAs (with or without reasonable accommodation); or if they otherwise do not meet the Technical Standards.
Students must possess aptitude, ability, and skills in the following five (6) areas:
- Motor and Sensory Function
- Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities
- Behavioral and Social Attributes
- Ethical and Legal Standards
Students must be able to observe demonstrations, participate in physical examination sessions and clinical skills workshops, and observe the difference of normal versus pathological states. They must be able to obtain a medical history and perform a complete physical examination in order to integrate findings based on these observations and to develop an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan.
Students must be able to accurately observe a patient near and at a distance, noting nonverbal, as well as verbal signs. Specific vision-related criteria include, but are not limited to, detecting and identifying changes in color of fluids, skin, culture media, visualizing and discriminating findings on x-rays and other imaging tests, and reading written and illustrated materials. Students must be able to observe and differentiate changes in body movement, observe anatomic structures, discriminate among numbers and patterns assist with diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms and competently use diagnostic instruments such as an otoscope, ophthalmoscope and microscope.
Students must be able to relate effectively to patients while conveying compassion and empathy. They must be able to clearly communicate with patients in order to elicit information, accurately describe changes in mood, activity and posture of patients, and understand verbal as well as nonverbal communication.
Communication includes not only speech, but also reading and writing. Physician Assistant education presents exceptional challenges in the volume and breadth of reading required to master subject areas and impart the information to others. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively, and efficiently in oral and written English in the classroom and later with all members of the health care team. Specific requirements include but are not limited to the following: rapidly and clearly communicating with the medical staff on rounds or elsewhere, eliciting an accurate history from patients, and communicating complex findings in appropriate terms to patients and to various members of the health care team. Students must learn to recognize and promptly respond to emotional cues, such as sadness and agitation.
Students must be able to accurately and legibly record observations and plans in legal documents, such as the patient record. Students must be able to prepare and communicate concise, complete summaries of both limited patient encounters and complex, prolonged encounters, including hospitalizations. Students must be able to complete forms in a timely fashion, and according to directions.
Motor and Sensory Function
Students must possess sufficient sensory and motor function to perform physical examinations using palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. This requires sufficient exteroceptive sense (visual, auditory, touch and temperature), coordination to examine patients and adequate motor skills to use diagnostic instruments.
Students must be able to evaluate various components of the voice, such as pitch, intensity, and timbre. They must also be able to accurately differentiate percussive notes and auscultatory findings, including but not limited to, heart, lung, and abdominal sounds. Students must be able to accurately discern normal and abnormal findings, using instruments including, but not limited to, tuning forks, stethoscopes, and sphygmomanometers.
Students should be able to execute physical movements needed to provide general care and emergency treatments to patients. The student, therefore, must be able to respond promptly to emergencies within the hospital or practice setting, and must not hinder the ability of his/her co-workers to provide prompt care. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of a physician assistant include arriving quickly when called and assisting in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), administering intravenous medications, applying pressure to arrest bleeding, maintaining an airway, and suturing wounds. As further illustration, CPR may require moving an adult patient and applying considerable chest pressure over a prolonged period of time.
Students should be able to learn to perform basic laboratory tests such as urinalysis, etc., and diagnostic/therapeutic procedures such as venipuncture or placement of catheters. The administration of intravenous medications requires a certain level of dexterity, sensation, and visual acuity. Students must be able to measure angles and diameters of various body structures using a tape measure or other devices to measure blood pressure, respiration, and pulse. Clinical rotations require the ability to transport oneself to a variety of settings in a timely manner.
Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities
Students must be able to learn through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to, classroom instruction; small group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of electronic technology. Students must have the mental capacity to assimilate and learn a large amount of complex, technical and detailed information in order to formulate diagnostic and therapeutic plans.
Problem solving, a critical skill demanded of physician assistants, often requires rapid intellectual function, especially in emergency situations. These intellectual functions include numerical recognition, measurement, calculations, reasoning analysis, judgment, and synthesis. Students must be able to identify significant findings in the patient’s history, physical examination and laboratory data, provide a reasoned explanation for likely diagnoses, and choose appropriate medications and therapy.
It is essential the student is able to incorporate new information, from many sources, toward the formulation of a diagnosis and plan. Good judgment in patient assessment and diagnostic/therapeutic planning is also essential. When appropriate, students must be able to identify and communicate the extent of their knowledge to others.
Behavioral and Social Attributes
Students must have the emotional stability to function effectively under stress and to adapt to an environment that may change rapidly, without warning, and/or in unpredictable ways. They must be accountable for learning, exercising good judgment, and promptly completing all responsibilities during their educational training. Students must be able to work effectively, respectfully and professionally as part of the educational and healthcare team, and to interact with instructors, peers, patients, caregivers, and health care personnel in a courteous, professional, and respectful manner. Students must be able to contribute to collaborative, constructive learning environments; accept constructive feedback from others; and take personal responsibility for making appropriate positive changes.
Ethical and Legal Standards
Students must understand the basis and content of both general and medical ethics. Students must possess attributes such as compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, responsibility, and inclusivity. Students must recognize limitations in their knowledge, skills and abilities and seek appropriate assistance with their identified limitations. Students whose performance is impaired by a substance use disorder are not suitable candidates for admission, promotion, or graduation. In addition, should a student be charged or convicted of any misdemeanor or felony offense while in the Program, s/he must immediately notify the Program as to the nature of the legal difficulty. Failure to disclose prior or new offenses can lead to disciplinary action that may include dismissal. Students must meet the legal standards to be licensed as a physician assistant in the State of Texas.