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Program Competencies

In aligning with the Physician Assistant program goals, the Marshall University PA (MUPA) Program has developed the following competencies that each student of the PA program must achieve prior to graduation. Within each of these six building block competencies, there are two additional competency domains: cultural humility and self-assessment and ongoing professional development. These competencies and additional competency domains drive the curriculum for the Marshall University Physician Assistant Program.


Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge

Graduates will demonstrate medical knowledge, which includes an understanding of pathophysiology, patient presentation, differential diagnosis, patient management, surgical principles, health promotion and disease prevention. Physician assistant graduates will demonstrate core knowledge that will enable them to apply evolving biomedical and clinical sciences to patient practice. In addition, graduates are expected to demonstrate an investigatory and analytic thinking approach to clinical situations.

Graduates are expected to:

  • Perform a history and physical examination and assimilate information from that examination to order appropriate diagnostic and laboratory testing, interpret the testing results, and formulate an appropriate differential diagnosis.
  • Use a patient-centered approach to develop a relationship with patients, their families, and/or their caregivers to partner with them in treating acute and chronic conditions.
  • Manage general medical and surgical conditions to include understanding the indications, contraindications, side effects, interactions and adverse reactions of pharmacologic agents and other relevant treatment modalities.
  • Differentiate between normal and abnormal findings in anatomic, physiological, laboratory and radiologic and other diagnostic data results.

Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.

Society and Population Health

Graduates will understand how the health of individuals can be affected by and contribute to the health of a larger community. Graduates will understand how civic responsibility, patient advocacy, service to the community, diversity of the workforce, and improving the health of underserved populations factor into patient care.

Graduates are expected to:

  • Understand and apply fundamental principles of epidemiology.
  • Work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals in a team approach to sustain and improve community health in diverse populations.
  • Recognize the cultural norms, needs, influences and socioeconomic, environmental and other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual and the community being served.
  • Recognize the potential impacts of the community, biology and genetics in the population and patients, and incorporate them into decisions of care.
  • Demonstrate accountability and responsibility to removing barriers to health.

Society and Population Health Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.

Health Literacy and Communication

Graduates will understand the importance of collaboration between the patient and the provider and will encourage them to take an active role in their own health. PA program graduates will also use a variety of techniques to determine the patient’s capacities for understanding their health and the systems that serve them. New graduates must display emotional maturity and be able to determine the best way of communicating with patients. 

Graduates are expected to:

  • Use effective communication skills to elicit and provide information.
  • Recognize and interpret verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Interpret and convey information to patients so that the patient understands and can apply learned knowledge to their own health care.
  • Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs.
  • Organize and communicate information with patients, families, community members, and health care team members in a form that is understandable while avoiding discipline-specific terminology when possible and checking to ensure understanding.
  • Use appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions for patient care.

Health Literacy and Communication Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.

Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership

Graduates will have a firm grasp of the roles and responsibilities of physician assistants and team members and will demonstrate the ability to work effectively in a team-based approach to assure the goals of the patient remain the focus. Graduates of the PA program will be prepared to assume a leadership role on a health care team and will be able to contribute to quality patient care by working with other health care professionals. Knowing when to lead and when to follow is essential in health care and demonstrates the graduate’s ability to value the needs of the patient over themselves. 

Graduates are expected to:

  • Work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals as a member or leader of a health care team or other professional group.
  • Articulate the PA’s role and responsibility to patients, families, communities and other professionals.
  • Assure patients they are being heard, and that their needs are the focus of care.
  • Recognize when referrals are needed and arrange for appropriate consultations.
  • Engage diverse professionals who complement one’s own professional expertise, as well as associated resources to develop strategies to meet specific health care needs of patients and populations.
  • Describe how professionals in health care and other fields can collaborate and integrate clinical care and public health interventions to optimize population health.

Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.

Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care

Graduates will demonstrate ethical and legally appropriate ways to care for patients. Competent PA graduates will be able to articulate and adhere to current standards of care and will possess knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern the delivery of health care in the United States. Graduates will be able to display professional maturity and use self-assessment and metacognitive skills. Graduates will display compassion and exercise humility consistently even in high stress, ambiguous and uncomfortable situations.

Graduates are expected to:

  • Accurately and adequately document information regarding care for legal and quality purposes.
  • Recognize their limits and establish healthy boundaries to support healthy partnerships.
  • Participate in difficult conversations with patients and colleagues.
  • Articulate the standard of care for practice of medicine.

Exhibit an understanding of the regulatory environment, accountability to the patients, society and profession, and to be responsive to needs of the patient that supersede self-interest.

Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.

Health Care and Finance Systems

Graduates will demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the health care system and deliver high-quality, patient-centered care while being cost effective and mindful of the patient’s financial situation. Graduates will understand how their productivity in a health care organization can affect the finance of their organization. Graduates will understand how patient outcomes are affected by a patient’s access to care and identify possible barriers to health care. 

Graduates are expected to:

  • Recognize financial implications to the provision of health care.
  • Understand different payor systems in health care, including Medicare and Medicaid, and how this affects practice effectiveness.
  • Understand the working PA/physician relationship.
  • Identify and participate in quality improvement endeavors to improve patient care.

Health Care and Finance Systems Competency Domain

Graduates Are Expected to:

Cultural Humility

  • Have an awareness of their own personal and professional beliefs, biases, attitudes and actions that affect patient care.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural differences of others.
  • Have a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Self-Assessment and Ongoing Professional Development

  • Have an awareness of personal and professional limitations.
  • Develop plans to address gaps in knowledge.
  • Use evidence-based medicine to effectively treat patients and understand commitment for ongoing use of ever evolving evidence-based medicine.
  • Self-reflect.
  • Participate in quality improvement activities and know why they are important.
  • Use discipline, reflection and self-control to develop a process for determining their level of understanding systems and strategies to address patient health care needs.
  • Self-evaluate and commit to career-long knowledge acquisition.