Program Mission & Goals
The primary mission of the University of North Dakota Department of Physician Assistant Studies is to prepare selected students to become competent physician assistants working collaboratively with physicians, emphasizing primary care in rural and/or underserved communities.
The vision of the University of North Dakota Physician Assistant Program is to strive for continued excellence in PA education while developing competent graduates to provide comprehensive quality health care to all. This will occur through innovation in teaching with technology and incorporating novel methods of simulation throughout the unique curriculum. This, combined with collaboration with clinical sites will enhance application of learning allowing the UND PA Program within the School of Medicine & Health Sciences to become the national PA program of choice for both students and employers looking for primary care providers.
- Education – foster critical thinking skills for the life-long learning of students, faculty and staff
- Innovation – commit to excellence by continual program assessment and improvement
- Service – address the health care needs and education of people in the communities served
- Commitment - accountability to the student, program, institution and profession
- Professional – model ethical behavior and team based collaboration with compassion, care and respect
The Departmental approach to education is based on the philosophy that students are highly motivated and each have unique personal and professional experiences. While the faculty and preceptor serve as catalysts, learning is the responsibility of the student. The interdisciplinary teaching approach integrates clinical skill and knowledge utilizing multiple techniques to facilitate learning. The goal is preparation of the student as a primary care provider in a variety of settings, utilizing a problem-oriented approach to logical thinking and sound judgment.
Furthermore, the Program faculty believes that physician assistants are accountable and responsible for the quality of their practice and for life-long learning to assure their ability to continually improve the care they deliver.
Also central to the Program’s mission is the Preceptor/PA Student Team development. A unique characteristic of the UND PA Program is the partnering of the student with a primary care preceptor throughout the entire clinical portion of the Program. This team approach forms the foundation and models the physician and physician assistant relationship inherent in a primary care PA’s clinical practice. By completing the majority of clinical experiences in the office of a practicing primary care provider, students are assured experiences with common primary care conditions in a clinical practice setting. It is under the guidance and supervision of the preceptor in an individualized teaching relationship that the student gains clinical competencies and accomplishes role integration. This is closely monitored and augmented by the Program faculty.
Student Learning Goals
Program Outcome and Professional Competencies: Medical Knowledge; Patient Care; and Interpersonal and Communication Skills
Student Learning Goal 1: Integrate critical thinking skills with medical knowledge and patient care to provide entry level primary health care services for a diverse population in a variety of settings.
Objective 1.1: Understand basic sciences of anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology necessary to practice medicine as a physician assistant.
Objective 1.2: Assess the health status of individuals of all ages by obtaining a history and physical examination, recommending and interpreting diagnostic studies, diagnosing, and developing a management plan for primary care conditions.
Objective 1.3: Apply principles of health promotion and disease prevention to provide primary health care across the lifespan.
Objective 1.4: Provide counseling, patient education, interventions, and appropriate referral for promotion, maintenance, and restoration of optimal levels of health for individuals of all ages, families, and communities.
Objective 1.5: Refine interpersonal and communication skills to result in effective information exchange with patients, families, and members of the professional health care team.
Program Outcome and Professional Competency: Professionalism
Student Learning Goal 2: Develop professional physician assistant/physician primary health care teams throughout primary care curriculum.
Objective 2.1: Demonstrate a high level of responsibility and ethical practice while acknowledging professional and personal limitations.
Objective 2.2: Understand the importance of the team approach to health care and work closely with physician preceptors to develop trusting relationships and strong medical practice ethic.
Program Outcome and Professional Competency: Practice-Based Learning & Improvement
Student Learning Goal 3: Engage in critical analysis of practice experience, medical literature and informational resources for the enhancement of patient care outcomes and self-improvement.
Objective 3.1: Gain a basic understanding of research methods and statistical analysis to improve comprehension of medical research studies and incorporate findings into clinical practice.
Objective 3.2: Self-assess gaps in medical knowledge, inherent population bias awareness and physical limitations to increase self-improvement.
Program Outcome and Professional Competencies: Systems-Based Practice
Student Learning Goal 4: Prepare physician assistants who will serve the societal, organizational and economic environments as health care advocates and role models for future physician assistant students as well as members of the professional health care team.
Objective 4.1: Maintain awareness of and responsiveness to ethical issues, patient safety and the larger system of health care to provide optimal value to patient care.
Objective 4.2: Advance professional role identity and accountability as a primary care provider developing leadership skills and responsibility to serve as physician assistant mentors within the profession.
- Provide a comprehensive academic and clinical educational experience for students and achieve first time PANCE scores at or above the national average and aggregate scores at 100%.
- Prepare graduates to be lifelong learners in clinical medicine.
- Prepare graduates to meet primary care workforce needs.
- Develop a culture of community involvement by providing service opportunities.
The PA profession, with substantial input from representatives of the AAPA, APAP, NCCPA and ARC-PA, has defined the following specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for physician assistant practice. The UND PA Program has adopted these competencies as outcomes of student learning at the completion of the graduate program.
Medical knowledge includes the synthesis of pathophysiology, patient presentation, differential diagnosis, patient management, surgical principles, health promotion, and disease prevention. Physician assistants must demonstrate core knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care in their area of practice. In addition, physician assistants are expected to demonstrate an investigative and analytic thinking approach to clinical situations. Physician assistants are expected to understand, evaluate, and apply the following to clinical scenarios:
- evidence-based medicine
- scientific principles related to patient care
- etiologies, risk factors, underlying pathologic process, and epidemiology for medical conditions
- signs and symptoms of medical and surgical conditions
- appropriate diagnostic studies
- management of general medical and surgical conditions to include pharmacologic and other treatment modalities
- interventions for prevention of disease and health promotion/maintenance
- screening methods to detect conditions in an asymptomatic individual
- history and physical findings and diagnostic studies to formulate differential diagnoses
Interpersonal & Communication Skills
Interpersonal and communication skills encompass the verbal, nonverbal, written, and electronic exchange of information. Physician assistants must demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange with patients, patients’ families, physicians, professional associates, and other individuals within the health care system. Physician assistants are expected to:
- create and sustain a therapeutic and ethically sound relationship with patients
- use effective communication skills to elicit and provide information
- adapt communication style and messages to the context of the interaction
- work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals as a member or leader of a health care team or other professional group
- demonstrate emotional resilience and stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity and anxiety
- accurately and adequately document information regarding care for medical, legal, quality, and financial purposes
Patient care includes patient- and setting-specific assessment, evaluation, and management. Physician assistants must demonstrate care that is effective, safe, high quality, and equitable. Physician assistants are expected to:
- work effectively with physicians and other health care professionals to provide patient-centered care
- demonstrate compassionate and respectful behaviors when interacting with patients and their families
- obtain essential and accurate information about their patients
- make decisions about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions based on patient information and preferences, current scientific evidence, and informed clinical judgment
- develop and implement patient management plans
- counsel and educate patients and their families
- perform medical and surgical procedures essential to their area of practice
- provide health care services and education aimed at disease prevention and health maintenance
- use information technology to support patient care decisions and patient education
Professionalism is the expression of positive values and ideals as care is delivered. Foremost, it involves prioritizing the interests of those being served above one’s own. Physician assistants must acknowledge their professional and personal limitations. Professionalism also requires that PAs practice without impairment from substance abuse, cognitive deficiency or mental illness. Physician assistants must demonstrate a high level of responsibility, ethical practice, sensitivity to a diverse patient population, and adherence to legal and regulatory requirements. Physician assistants are expected to demonstrate:
- understanding of legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the appropriate role of the physician assistant
- professional relationships with physician supervisors and other health care providers
- respect, compassion, and integrity
- accountability to patients, society, and the profession
- commitment to excellence and on-going professional development
- commitment to ethical principles pertaining to provision or withholding of clinical care, confidentiality of patient information, informed consent, and business practices
- sensitivity and responsiveness to patients’ culture, age, gender, and abilities
- self-reflection, critical curiosity, and initiative
- healthy behaviors and life balance
- commitment to the education of students and other health care professionals
Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
Practice-based learning and improvement includes the processes through which physician assistants engage in critical analysis of their own practice experience, the medical literature, and other information resources for the purposes of self- and practice-improvement. Physician assistants must be able to assess, evaluate, and improve their patient care practices. Physician assistants are expected to:
- locate, appraise, and integrate evidence from scientific studies related to their patients’ health
- apply knowledge of study designs and statistical methods to the appraisal of clinical literature and other information on diagnostic and therapeutic effectiveness
- utilize information technology to manage information, access medical information, and support their own education
- recognize and appropriately address personal biases, gaps in medical knowledge, and physical limitations in themselves and others
Systems-based practice encompasses the societal, organizational, and economic environments in which health care is delivered. Physician assistants must demonstrate an awareness of and responsiveness to the larger system of health care to provide patient care that balances quality and cost, while maintaining the primacy of the individual patient. PAs should work to improve the health care system of which their practices are a part. Physician assistants are expected to:
- effectively interact with different types of medical practice and delivery systems
- practice cost-effective health care and resource allocation that does not compromise quality of care
- 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 the concepts of population health to patient care