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A comparative study of physican assistant education content

1 August 2002


Objective: This study compares the educational content of accredited physician assistant programs within the state of Texas. Programs (N = 8) were compared on the basis of prerequisite requirements, program characteristics and demographics, and core course content.

Methods: A comparative study of all accredited physician assistant programs within the state of Texas was completed. Data was gathered via web sites, course catalogs, phone interviews, and site visits, and descriptive statistics were calculated utilizing Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. Results: 63% (5) of the programs studied currently award masters degrees. 50% (4) require a minimum GPA of 3.0. Mean faculty to student ratio for all programs was 1 to 7. 38% (3) of program directors hold a doctorate degree. 85% (7) of schools include human cadaver study as part of the curriculum. 71% (5, N = 7) of schools that offer cadaver study include both prosection and complete dissection. The mean total patient contact hours were 2318 and the mean total instructional hours were 1224. 85% (7) had total educational hours greater than 3000. Coursework categories (N = 15) with the highest mean total number of instructional hours among the eight programs were Clinical Medicine (333), Patient Evaluation (169), and Human Anatomy and Physiology (165). A wide range of instructional hours was found in the majority (93%, 14, N = 15) of categories of instruction with the narrowest range found in the category of Psychiatry/Behavioral Science, with a range of 48-30 hours.

Conclusions: This study found general similarities, but significant, quantifiable differences with respect to instructional hours and patient contact hours. P A programs studied appear to have general consistency within pre-requisite requirements and some consistency with respect to program characteristics. However, with respect to core coursework, although there is consistency among the types of courses offered, there appears to be significant differences in the number of instructional hours within each category. In addition, significant differences exist in the number of total patient contact hours and total instructional hours.


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