The USF PA Program is an intense, 27-month, cohort-based curriculum comprised of 98 credits. A Master of Science (MS) in Physician Assistant Studies is awarded upon completion of the curriculum and fulfillment of USF requirements. Students must attend the program on a full-time basis. The first fifteen months of the program are spent primarily in the classroom obtaining a foundation of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, microbiology, clinical medicine, physical assessment, diagnostics, therapeutics, and various medical specialties. Active learning techniques are used exclusively in the third and fourth semesters in medical diagnostic and therapeutic courses. During the last twelve months of the program, students complete supervised clinical practice experiences (SCPEs) in which they work with a clinician preceptor in various settings, including the emergency department, inpatient, outpatient, and operating room settings. All students complete core rotations in the areas of family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, women’s health (including prenatal and gynecologic care), and behavioral and mental health care. Students also choose from a series of elective rotations in the areas of trauma/surgery, hospital inpatient care, family practice, or internal medicine.
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of Saint Francis. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.
Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be 2024 March. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.
The Physician Assistant Program impassions a diverse community of lifelong learners to become academically and professionally competent, service-oriented, and patient-centered clinicians capable of caring for individuals in a variety of medical settings.
The Physician Assistant Program aspires to cultivate an interactive, collaborative, and service-centered community capable of fostering enhanced clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills through innovative and evidence-based practices.
The USF PA Program has six programmatic goals:
- Select competent, experienced, and diverse applicants dedicated to the PA profession.
- Provide a quality educational experience in the biomedical and clinical sciences that emphasizes the development of critical thinking/clinical reasoning and evidence-based medical practices necessary for entry-level practice.
- Provide students with clinical skills needed to assess and diagnose patients appropriately.
- Prepare students to be practitioners who engage in service-learning and care for the underserved.
- Prepare PA students for successful passage of the PANCE.
- Foster an environment where students are culturally aware and culturally sensitive.
The following list defines the medical knowledge, interpersonal, clinical and technical skills, professional behaviors, and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for entry level practice. These competencies are consistent with those defined by the PA profession and endorsed by the NCCPA, ARC-PA, PAEA, and AAPA (https://www.aapa.org/download/90503/):
- Embrace the role of a physician assistant and recognize personal limitations while practicing.
- Apply critical thinking and medical decision-making strategies to all aspects of acute and chronic patient care.
- Practice evidence-based medicine which incorporates life-long learning and current clinical guidelines.
- Communicate effectively with patients and families by utilizing patient centered interpersonal skills that incorporate mutual respect with the patient, effective provider-patient interactions, and cultural awareness.
- Accurately complete written documentation of patient care, to include orders and referrals to other specialty care providers.
- Elicit a patient-centered problem-oriented or comprehensive history from a patient of any age and gender utilizing appropriate interpersonal skills and cultural awareness.
- Perform an appropriate focused and comprehensive physical examination for a patient of any age and gender recognizing normal and abnormal findings.
- Possess a thorough understanding of medical ethics and the legal aspects of professional practice.
- Integrate findings of the history, physical examination, risk factors, and epidemiology to formulate an appropriate problem list and differential diagnosis.
- Effectively orally present a patient to supervising physicians incorporating cultural sensitivity regarding diverse patient populations.
- Perform patient education which considers social determinants and encourages treatment adherence and lifestyle modification.
- Practice preventive care including age-appropriate screening, immunization recommendations, patient education, behavioral modifications.
- Identify, order, and interpret laboratory and diagnostic studies to appropriately address a patient’s differential diagnosis.
- Prepare, implement, and monitor cost-effective treatment plans that utilize pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapeutic modalities in a variety of patient care areas across the life span.
- Appropriately perform diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures and counsel patients regarding procedure, side effects, follow-up care, and informed consent.
- Utilize medical knowledge of acute and chronic medical and surgical conditions including anatomy, physiology, etiology, pathophysiology, incidence, risk factors, clinical presentation, differential diagnosis, and treatment strategies to effectively manage a patient across the life span.
- Distinguish between emergent and non-emergent patient presentation and appropriately initiate evaluation and clinical intervention in life-threatening situations.
- Implement public health and patient safety approaches to improve the quality of patient care.
- Practice professionalism in all aspects of clinical practice while advocating for the patient.
- Perform as an interprofessional team member and understand the roles of other health care professionals.
Students who graduate from an accredited physician assistant program are eligible to take the certification examination offered by the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Successful completion of the examination allows the individual to use the title “Physician Assistant Certified,” abbreviated as “PA-C.” The most current NCCPA PANCE Exam Performance Summary Report Last 5 Years is updated on the PA Program’s website by April 1 of each year.
Admissions Process and Requirements
The USF PA Program has established the following admissions policies and practices:
General Admissions Process
Admission to the PA Program is granted through a competitive selection process. Applicants file using the Centralized Application Service for the PA (CASPA) between the dates of May 1 and April 1 for the class beginning the following May. Though students may be accepted into the University of Saint Francis, they are not guaranteed admission into the PA Program.
Faculty score each CASPA-submitted application using a point system. Points are awarded based on the status and type of degree(s) pursued / obtained; the number of credit hours of 300+ level courses previously completed; cumulative overall total GPA and science GPA; type of direct patient care experience and hours of experience; shadowing experiences; personal statement; letters of recommendation; volunteer activities; and extracurricular activities. All applicants who meet the minimum number of points required for an interview are offered an on-ground interview at the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne campus.
The interview experience consists of a general program welcome by principal faculty and an overview of the 27-month curriculum. Interviewees participate in a mock active learning session, attend a Q&A with current students, and participate in both 1:1 multiple-mini-interviews as well as a longer, more personalized 1:1 interview. A student-led campus tour is an optional feature.
Applicants are awarded a cumulative score upon completion of the interview experience that considers their CASPA scores and scores from the interview (including multiple-mini-interviews and the personalized interview). Scoreable activities are entered in an Excel spreadsheet, along with comments regarding each candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement. At the end of each calendar month, candidates are informed of their acceptance status via the email address provided on the CASPA application or phone. Candidates may be accepted without reservation, accepted with reservations (if there are outstanding pre-requisites), waitlisted, or denied acceptance. Applicants accepted with reservations must complete all outstanding pre-requisites prior to matriculation in May or will forfeit their spot in the program. Waitlisted students are ranked based on their scoreable activities and are offered acceptance into the program based on availability. Students on the waitlist may be offered a seat in the program at any time prior to the start of classes. This process continues until all 25 seats in the cohort are filled. Accepted applicants are given two weeks to submit a non-refundable $1000.00 deposit to secure their seat in the program. Following matriculation, the deposit is applied to the student’s tuition. Applicants who choose not to pay the deposit within the two-week period and/or do not communicate with the PA Program during this time are considered to have declined the offer of acceptance.
Traditional Admissions Requirements
Each accepted applicant to the PA Program must have all entrance requirements fulfilled at the time of matriculation in May. Successful applicants to the PA Program must meet both general admission criteria for the University of Saint Francis and program-specific requirements. The PA program makes student admission decisions in accordance with clearly defined and published practices of the institution and program. Minimum requirements for admission to the PA Program include:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in the United States of America or equivalence verification of foreign credentials.
- Completion of the College of Health Science Technical Standards (completed during the interview).
- A minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0.
- A minimum overall science GPA of 3.0.
- Satisfactory completion of 12 semester credit hours in chemistry with a grade of “C” or better; to include courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
- Satisfactory completion of 15 semester credit hours in biology with a grade of “C” or better; to include courses in human anatomy, physiology (courses can be combined or separate), and microbiology.
- Satisfactory completion of 6 semester credit hours in psychology with a grade of “C” or better.
- Possession of direct patient care experience. The most direct and responsible forms of patient care experience in a compensated position are preferred.
- Clinical components of the educational experience required for other healthcare professions are considered but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
- Volunteer activity and/or appropriate life experience will be considered but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
- To participate in clinical experiences, clinical requirements set by the Physician Assistant Studies Program and clinical agencies must be met, including, but not limited to, criminal background checks, drug testing, immunization and health screening.
The USF PA Program currently maintains articulation agreements with Indiana Wesleyan University, Indiana Tech, and Manchester University. Under the terms of the agreement, two seats are reserved for graduating students from each program per year. The details of each agreement are listed below.
Indiana Insitute of Technology (Indiana Tech)
Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU)
Manchester University (MU)
College of Health Sciences Technical Standards
The University of Saint Francis has identified technical standards that must be met by students to successfully progress in and graduate from its health science programs. These standards establish performance standards that will enable students to become competent practitioners who are able to provide safe care for their patients (persons, families and/or communities) with critical judgment, broadly based knowledge, and well-honed technical skills.
Technical standards (see below) outline skills, abilities and behavioral characteristics required to successfully complete health science programs at the university. Key areas include having abilities and skills in the areas of: (1) acquiring fundamental knowledge; (2) developing communication skills; (3) interpreting data; (4) integrating knowledge to establish clinical judgment; and, (5) incorporating professional attitudes and behaviors into practice.
The university provides reasonable accommodations to all students on a nondiscriminatory basis and consistent with legal requirements as outlined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to an instructional activity, equipment, facility, program or service that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to fulfill the requirements necessary for graduation from the program. To be eligible for accommodations, a student must have a documented disability of (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (b) a record of such impairment; or, (c) be regarded as having such a condition.
- Acquiring Fundamental Knowledge: Students must be able to learn in classroom and other educational settings via lectures, demonstrations, review of research and patient care situations. Students must have the ability to find sources of knowledge, acquire the knowledge, be a life-long learner and demonstrate adaptive thinking.
- Developing Communication Skills: Students must have the ability to effectively communicate verbally, nonverbally, in writing, with groups and using information technology. Students must be able to interact appropriately with patients (persons, families and/or communities), peers, and with all members of the health care team. Students must be able to interpret and convey information gathered from communications. They must be able to speak, read and write in English.
- Interpreting Data: Students must have the ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize data in a timely manner. They must successfully fulfill examination requirements of the program, including written and practical examinations. Students must have the ability to (1) observe patient conditions and responses to health and illness, (2) assess and monitor health needs, (3) translate data into abstract concepts, and (4) understand evidence-based reasoning.
- Integrating Knowledge to Establish Clinical Judgment: Students must demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making ability needed to care for individuals, families and/or communities across the health continuum. They must demonstrate clinical competency and the ability to participate in clinical experiences. Students must possess sensory capacity and motor function to gather patient data, perform patient assessment and implement therapeutic interventions.
- Incorporating Professional Attitudes and Behaviors into Practice: Students must demonstrate cross cultural competency, integrity, moral reasoning, ethical behaviors and concern for others. They must have the ability to acquire interpersonal skills for professional interactions with diverse individuals, families and/or communities. They must be able to work cooperatively with intra and inter professional teams, adapt to changing environments inherent in clinical practice, and function effectively under stress.
The University of Saint Francis is committed to providing equal access to all students, including those students with disabilities. Once students are admitted to a health sciences program, they should contact Academic and Career Development Center at (260) 399-7700 x6075 if they believe that they may require reasonable accommodation to fulfill the Health Science Technical Standards. A copy of this form in its entirety is readily accessible on the College of Health Sciences SharePoint site and will additionally be made available upon request to the Director of Didactic Education.
To be qualified for enrollment in the USF PA Program, candidates must be able to meet the COHS Technical Standards, with or without reasonable accommodations.
Students admitted to the USF PA Program are responsible for following appropriate enrollment procedures and deadlines. The program’s administrative assistant and Director of Didactic Education handle student registration and provide oversight for the enrollment process, ensuring compliance with requirements and maintenance of accurate and complete student records and files.
All students admitted to the USF PA Program must complete a series of steps to finish the enrollment process. These steps are detailed on the Enrollment Packet Checklist and Programmatic Expectations document that is emailed to all admitted students in the semester preceding matriculation. As stated on the checklist, students are required to complete the following:
- Read the PA Student Handbook in its entirety and return the Acknowledgement of the PA Student Handbook Form.
- Order and submit a background check.
- The USF PA Program requires individuals who have been accepted to the program to complete a background check prior to programmatic enrollment to meet requirements of clinical training affiliates. Evidence of positive drug screens; DUIs or driving violations/penalties; crimes including battery, assault, theft, or embezzlement; and drug or other substance abuse related crimes may make students ineligible to participate in clinical experiences. The background check includes a required driving history check.
- All students who have held a driver’s license must include their driver’s license information in the online background check application. Generally minor traffic violations will not typically prevent clinical participation. However, individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanors within the past 3-5 years and/or felony convictions within 7-10 years are typically excluded from clinical participation and cannot be admitted until the specified time has passed and the individual has been reviewed and approved for clinical participation by university clinical affiliates.
- Individuals who have been convicted of crimes of abuse, sexual assault, dishonesty (any theft), crimes against a person (e.g., assault, battery, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder), or are a registered sex-offender will never be eligible for clinical participation and will not be admitted to the USF PA Program.
- If infringements exclude an individual from clinical experiences, the student may not enroll in or continue with the USF PA Program. If infringements are revealed by the background check and were not listed on the COHS Clinical, Field, and Internship Requirements and Technical Standards Disclosure Form, this lack of disclosure may be considered a breach of academic honesty and professionalism and may exclude a student from enrollment.
- Complete the signed health form required by the COHS and return it in a sealed, separate envelope.
- Sign the Clinical, Field, and Internship Requirements and Technical Standards Disclosure Form.
- Sign the Consent to Release Information Form.
- Sign the Verification of Health Insurance Form.
- Sign the Honor Code statement.
- Sign the Technology Honor Code statement.
- Sign the Informed Consent Form.
- Sign the Confidentiality and Informed Consent for Participation in Educational Activities Form.
- Sign the COHS Student Confidentiality Form.
- Sign the HIPAA Regulations Summary for PA Students document.
- Review the Financial Aid Information for PA Students document.
- Review and share the Family and Friends Letter with loved ones.
- Review the Textbooks and Materials List.
- Provide a professional photo/headshot.
- Provide official transcripts from all institutions attended.
Program of Study
The USF PA Program requires the successful completion of a 98-credit hour curriculum. The curriculum is consistent with the mission, goals, and competencies of the program; includes core knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care; and is of sufficient breadth and depth to prepare the student for the clinical practice of medicine. The curriculum design also reflects content and course sequencing that builds upon previously achieved student learning. Students in each cohort are expected to enroll full-time, take courses in the same order, and graduate at the same time.
The didactic phase of the curriculum consists of the first four semesters of enrollment. Classes, labs, and most other program sanctioned activities occur on campus, though a few class-related activities, including interprofessional educational experiences, occur in the greater Fort Wayne area. During the didactic phase, students develop a foundational knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and pharmacotherapeutics, and the genetic and molecular mechanisms of health and disease that permits application in clinical practice.
The clinical phase of the curriculum consists of the final three semesters of enrollment. Each student is required to complete nine clinical courses. These courses include supervised clinical practice experiences (SCPEs) with preceptors who enable students to meet program defined learning outcomes for family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, behavioral and mental health care, and women’s health (including prenatal and gynecologic care). Students will also complete three elective clinical rotations within trauma/surgery, family practice, hospital inpatient care, and internal medicine.
USF PA Program academic standards include:
- Maintenance of a cumulative GPA of ≥ 3.0
- Earn a “B-” or “P” in all courses
- Completion of all non-letter graded assignments and activities
Requirements and Deadlines for Program Progression and Completion
The following subsections list the specific requirements and deadlines for progression in and completion of the PA Program:
Requirements & Deadlines for Program Progression
To progress in the USF PA program, students must maintain good academic and professional standing:
Maintain Good Academic Standing
A student must be in good academic standing to be eligible to have a master’s degree conferred at USF. To remain in good academic standing, a graduate student must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 in all graduate courses required on the student’s program. No graduate course with a grade below a “C” may be counted toward a degree program. The GPA is computed on a cumulative basis by dividing the total number of grade points by the total number of credit hours a student has taken in courses earning grade points. The GPA includes any course work taken at USF for which a student earned graduate credit. Courses in which a student has received I, P, W, or WP are not included in this computation.
Following any academic term at the end of which the cumulative graduate GPA falls below 3.00, the student will be considered on academic probation and poor academic standing and will receive a letter from the Graduate School office. The student will additionally be required to meet with the SPC at the start of the subsequent semester and will be subject to a thorough review of academic performance throughout the program. The student will be counseled and receive tailored guidance via an academic improvement plan (AIP) that addresses the student’s specific academic challenges and requires that the student bring the cumulative GPA to 3.00 upon the completion of the subsequent semester.
The AIP may include the following items or other activities determined by the SPC to assist the student in raising the cumulative GPA:
- Completing an educational activity to improve study strategies and/or test-taking skills
- Requiring a meeting with the Student Success Coordinator and/or the Coordinator of Student Accessibility Services
- Completing assigned readings
- Requiring scheduled meetings with faculty
- Re-evaluating the student’s learning style
- Performing a self-critique, self-analysis, or metacognitive activities
A student who successfully brings the cumulative GPA to the required level of 3.00 upon the completion of an additional 6 credit hours of graduate work (and therefore successfully completes the AIP) will be removed from academic probation and will regain good academic standing. A student who fails to bring the cumulative GPA to the required level of 3.00 upon the completion of an additional 6 credit hours of graduate work (and thus does not successfully complete the AIP) will remain in poor academic standing and be dismissed from the USF PA Program. A student may be on academic probation more than once should the cumulative GPA fall below 3.00 a second time in a non-sequential semester.
Maintain Good Professional Standing
A student must be in good professional standing to be eligible to graduate from the USF PA program. To remain in good professional standing, a student must display professional behaviors becoming of a physician assistant as described in the PA Student Honor Code (see section 6.3).
Deficiencies in any areas of professionalism will be brought to the student’s attention by his/her advisor, the director of didactic education, director of clinical education, and/or program director in the form of a written evaluation. A copy of the evaluation will be shared with the SPC, who will meet to review the evaluation, speak with the writer, and discuss the situation with the student (virtually or in-person). Violations of professionalism may remove a student from good professional standing by resulting in the student being placed on Professional Probation Risk (Tier 1) or Professional Probation (Tier 2). This decision is at the discretion of the SPC.
If a student is placed on Tier 1 or Tier 2, they will be assigned a professionalism improvement plan (PIP) designed to return the student to good professional standing. The PIP may include the following items or other activities determined by the SPC:
- Completing an educational activity to demonstrate adherence to and understanding of the principles of intellectual honesty, academic integrity, and/or professional conduct required of the PA profession
- Reviewing and reflecting on the PA Student Honor Code
- Reviewing AAPA’s Guidelines for Ethical Conduct for the PA Profession
- Reviewing scenarios related to emotional intelligence and/or medical ethics
- Completing relevant online course work or assignments
- Completing a research paper
- Obtaining additional clinical hours
- Simulation training
- Self-critique, self-analysis, or metacognitive activities
- Successful completion of training modules
A student must be removed from Tier 1 or Tier 2 status prior to program completion to demonstrate good professional standing and be eligible for graduation from the USF PA program. The PA Program may reference a student’s standing on Tier 1 or Tier 2 when responding to regulatory questions or when providing recommendations for employment or privileges at institutions.
Requirements & Deadlines for Program Completion
To complete the USF PA program, students must complete all required criteria by the stated deadline.
Complete all mid-didactic year evaluation components with a score ≥80%
Prior to entry into the clinical phase of the program
Complete all didactic summative evaluation components with a score ≥80%
Prior to entry into the clinical phase of the program
Complete the didactic year summative checklist
Prior to entry into the clinical phase of the program
Prior to entry into the clinical phase of the program
Complete all outstanding improvement plans (academic, competency, or professional)
Prior to graduation
Demonstrate achievement of all clinical rotation learning outcomes
Prior to graduation
Demonstrate achievement of all program competencies with a score ≥80%
Prior to graduation
Complete all clinical summative evaluation components with a score ≥80%
Within the last four months of the program; prior to graduation
Prior to graduation
Complete the PAEA End of Curriculum Exam
Prior to graduation
Complete the clinical year summative checklist
Prior to graduation
Complete all 98 credit hours in the PA curriculum
Prior to graduation and within 5 years of matriculation to the PA program
Acquire a minimum of 12 service learning hours
Prior to graduation
Fulfill all financial obligations to the University of Saint Francis
Prior to graduation
Failure to meet a criterion by the specified deadline will result in a meeting with the SPC and may additionally include remediation, delay of graduation, deceleration, or programmatic dismissal.