Physician Assistant Studies

Core Competencies

Roles, Competencies, and Performance Criteria Expected of Graduates from the South College Physical Assistant Program

Using appropriate competencies and psychomotor skill sets, the graduate will be able to elicit a detailed and accurate history; perform a comprehensive physical examination under the direction of a licensed physician regardless of the patient’s age, sex or presenting health care problem; and provide professional patient care in the following ways:

Interpersonal & Communications Skills

A.  Communicate effectively as a health care professional.

  • Interact with patients, families , and team members in a manner that provides the desired psychosocial support and trust by:
  • Respecting individual culture, religious, and socioeconomic differences. 
  • Recognizing the patient’s reaction to his/her illness and disability. 
  • Recognizing the reactions of the patient’s family to illness and disability. 
  • Acting with honesty and integrity in relationships with patients, families, and other team members.
  • Engage the greatest possible degree of patient’s motivation and cooperation in treatment. 
  • Communicate to the patient the importance of and need for treatment compliance.
  • Function effectively with other members of the health care team in providing appropriate patient care, and appreciating the role of other health care professionals in providing patient care in various health care settings.
  • Effectively communicate the need for a comprehensive and honest sexual, physical, chemical, and/or traumatic history. 

B.  Elicit the appropriate problem-oriented and/or comprehensive history from patients regardless of age or gender with an attitude of respect and adherence to the concepts of privileges and confidentially. 

  • Obtain a clear, concise chief complaint and history of present illness using open-ended questions, empathetic responses, and clarification of verbal and nonverbal clues concerning patient illness or related concerns.
  • Obtain a past history including childhood illnesses, adult medical and surgical problems, injuries, hospitalizations, medications, allergies, tests, hazards, safety issues, immunizations, travels, and psychiatric and social disorders.
  • Obtain a psychosocial, residential, occupational, family, and environmental history.
  • Obtain a review of systems and arrange findings into logical groups.
  • Obtain a history of past medical treatment compliance. 

C.  Perform a comprehensive and/or focused physical examination regardless of the patient’s age, gender, or health problem(s), based on historical information. 

  • Possess the knowledge of the appropriate use of the instruments for the physical examination.
  • Select the appropriate system or systems to examine for the patient’s health concern. 
  • Possess the knowledge of selected or indicated universal precaution procedures in the physical examination.

D.  Assess, monitor, and analyze the information database of the patient regardless of their age, gender, or health problem(s).

  • Integrate and synthesize data from the patient history, physical examination, and diagnostic procedures, as well as previous medical records, and record the findings.
  • Possess the skills necessary to organize data from the medical history, physical examination and diagnostic studies.
  • Possess the skills necessary to accurately record and present data in a logical sequence.
  • Possess the skills necessary to select pertinent data from the medical history, physical examination and diagnostic studies.
  • Differentiate between normal and abnormal information contained in the database, including signs, symptoms and diagnostic values. 

E.  Organize and communicate information with patients, families, and healthcare team members in a form that is understandable, avoiding discipline-specific terminology when possible.

  • Use respectful language appropriate for a given difficult situation, crucial conversation, or interprofessional conflict.

F.  Present the database in an electronic medical record format and establish a complete problem list.

  • Identify the elements of the electronic medical record format for a patient care problem.
  • Organize the data in the appropriate category of the electronic medical record format.
  • Identify the patient’s problems and list them in the specified problem list format. 
  • State each problem at the highest level of the problems resolution.
  • Revise and reassess the problem list to reflect current data.
  • Present the database obtained in the electronic medical record format to the supervising physician in both a written and verbal format.

Patient Care

 A.  Develop a preliminary and secondary diagnoses based on the data obtained from an appropriate history and physical exam.

  • Generate a hypothesis upon learning the patient’s chief complaint and reevaluate it throughout the history of present illness, past medical history, family history, social history, review of systems, and physical exam.

B.  Identify, order, perform, and interpret appropriate diagnostic procedures or studies.

  • Possess the skills required to extrapolate the appropriate studies or procedures to be performed from the historical data and physical exam findings.
  • Possess the knowledge of the risks, expenses, and patient inconvenience as compared to the safety and benefit of various diagnostic studies.
  • Possess the knowledge of the sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of the diagnostic studies.
  • Possess the skills to provide the patient and their families with informed consent of various studies and procedures.

C.  Formulate and document an individual treatment/management plan for a patient regardless of age, gender, or health problem(s) in consultation with a physician

  • Possess the knowledge of primary care treatment modalities and health risks interventions.
  • Possess the knowledge of desired and adverse effects of these treatment modalities and interventions.
  • Engage other health professionals – appropriate to the specific care situation – in shared patient-centered problem solving.
  • Listen actively and encourage ideas and opinions of other team members.
  • Determine any or all additional information needed for assessment and management of the respective problem.
  • Develop and discuss the treatment/management plan for the patient’s respective problem(s) with the supervising physician.
  • Consult with and involve other health care professionals in the design of the treatment/management plan in order to maximize patient care.
  • Incorporate community and other resources when developing a treatment/management plan for the patient.
  • Report communicable or infectious disease to the appropriate local, state, national or global health department or agency as required.
  • Describe the health status and diagnosis to the patient and/or the patient’s family using terminology understandable to them, or using an appropriated facilitator to translate for them. 

D.  Provide health education services to the patient, his/her family members or significant others, the public, or other health care providers

  • Assess the health belief status of the patient concerning his/her health problem(s) and health knowledge base.
  • Determine the information needs of the patient.
  • Determine the patient’s perception of barriers that offer resistance to the care of the patient.
  • Elicit the patient’s understanding of the relationship between a specific disease process and antecedent behaviors. 
  • Integrate the knowledge and experience of other professionals – appropriate to the specific care situation – to inform care decisions, while respecting patient and community values and priorities/preferences for care.

E.  Provide education and counseling to patient and his/her family or significant others regardless of their health care problem(s).

  • Educate regarding the signs and symptoms of their illness.
  • Educate regarding the reasons for performing diagnostic studies and procedures, and counsel regarding the best options for the patient.
  • Educate regarding the meaning of the diagnosis.
  • Counsel patient and family members or significant others on the rationale and effects of treatment, as well as prognosis.
  • Educate regarding health promotion and disease prevention

F.  Implement, monitor and modify the treatment/management plan for the patient regardless of age, gender, or health problem(s).

  • Using the information obtained from the medical history, physical examination, laboratory studies and other sources carry out the management plan. 
  • Administer medications in the appropriate manner, e.g., oral versus parenteral.
  • Perform clinical skills dictated by the situation such as performing Pap smears, placing nasogastric tubes, intubating, and obtaining throat cultures.
  • Perform minor surgical therapies or interventions.
  • Monitor the progress of the patient, as well as the implementation of the treatment/management plan.
  • Modify the plan when appropriate. 

G.  Manage life-threatening emergencies in the absence of a physician.

  • Possess the skills necessary to recognize the signs and symptoms of life-threatening emergencies.
  • Possess the knowledge of the limits of personal and professional abilities.
  • Possess the knowledge and skills pertaining to emergency treatment. 
  • Provide treatment of emergency problems within the framework of one’s personal and professional limits, as well as one’s certified or documented abilities.
  • Appropriately record and report any action taken to other health care professionals upon stabilization of the patient.


A.  Maintain the ethical code of the PA profession with respect for the diversity of patient values and beliefs as well as the complexities of team-based care.

B.  Manage ethical dilemmas specific to interprofessional patient/population centered care situations.

C.  Place the interests of patients and populations at the center of interprofessional health care delivery.

  • Act in a humane, caring, understanding and considerate manner, embracing the cultural diversity and individual differences that characterize patients, populations, and the health care team.
  • Respect the dignity and privacy of patients while maintaining confidentiality in the delivery of team-based care.

D.  Be aware of limitations; seek help and advice when needed.

E.  Demonstrate professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers.

  • Respect the unique cultures, values, roles/responsibilities, and expertise of other health professions.
  • Work in cooperation with those who receive care, those who provide care, and others who contribute to or support the delivery of prevention and health services.

F.  Recognize accountability to patients, society, and the profession.

Practice-based Learning & Improvement

A.  Develop skills for lifelong learning with appropriate use of medical resources.

  • Engage in periodic review of professional skills and experience (self assessment).
  • Demonstrate ability to locate, appraise, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients’ health.
  • Devise a program of continuing education activities based upon perceived needs.

B.  Acquire knowledge and skills essential to incorporating into practice proven evaluation/treatment modalities, preventions and interventions, and compliance techniques.

  • Recognize and appropriately address personal biases, gaps in medical knowledge, and physical limitations in themselves and others.
  • Maintain competence in one’s own profession appropriate to scope practice.

C.  Use process improvement strategies to increase the effectiveness of interprofessional teamwork and team-based care.

  • Reflect on individual and team performance for individual, as well as team, performance improvement.
  • Use available evidence to inform effective teamwork and team-based practices.

Systems-based Practice

A.  Effectively interact with different types of medical practice and delivery systems.

  • Understand the funding sources and payment systems that provide coverage for patient care and use the systems effectively.
  • Practice cost-effective health care and resource allocation that does not compromise quality of care.
  • Apply the concepts of population health to patient care.

B.  Advocate for quality patient care and assist patients in dealing with system complexities.

  • Accept responsibility for promoting a safe environment for patient care and recognizing and correcting systems-based factors that negatively impact patient care.
  • Apply medical information and clinical data systems to provide effective, efficient patient care.

C.  Apply leadership practices that support collaborative practice and team effectiveness.

  • Engage self and others to constructively manage disagreements about values, roles, goals, and actions that arise among healthcare professionals and with patients and families.
  • Share accountability with other professions, patients, and communities for outcomes relevant to prevention and health care.
  • Communicate consistently the importance of teamwork in patient-centered and community-focused care.

Clinical Competencies

Prior to progressing to the clinical learning year of the program, students will develop and demonstrate proficiency in several psychomotor skill sets involved in procedural medicine, such as suturing, casting and splinting, nasogastric and endotracheal intubation, and sterile technique.  The clinical phase of the program is designed to reinforce knowledge and skills developed during the didactic phase.  Eight clinical learning rotations, each six weeks in length, are conducted at a variety of outpatient and inpatient clinical sites.  Students are expected to develop competency in those areas listed above.  During this period, students will be exposed to a wide variety of live patient encounters to assist them in the building of understanding in the diagnoses, pathophysiology, risk factors, laboratory interpretation, and therapeutic strategies involved in patient evaluation and treatment. 


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