Pre-health: Physician Assistant

School ofSciences

Pre-health: Physician Assistant

 I.   An overview of the profession

According to U.S. News and World Report's 2014 "100 Best Jobs" ranking, physician assistant (PA) is one of the top 15 best jobs in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 30% job growth rate for the profession through 2020.

There are many reasons for the career's appeal:

• The average length of a PA program is 27 months.
• Average starting salary is $90,000.
• It offers flexibility to practice in different areas of medicine without additional education and training
Physician assistants can practice and prescribe medicine in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (regulations vary by state) under the license of a physician and can work in a variety of health care settings. Although PAs are trained as generalists in medicine, they can also work in specialty areas of medicine. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic services, as designated by a licensed physician.

Working as members of the health care team, PAs may also:
• Diagnose illness and disease
• Examine and treat patients
• Instruct and counsel patients
• Order or carry out therapies
• Order and interpret lab tests and X-rays
• Prescribe medications
• Record progress notes
• Take medical histories
• Treat injuries by suturing, splinting and casting
• Perform or assist in surgeries

PAs also may have managerial duties, order medical and lab supplies and equipment or supervise technicians and assistants. While PAs practice under the license of a physician, they may also be the principal care providers in practices where a physician may be present for only one or two days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs may also make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the physician.

To learn more, watch a video profile about physician assistants (located in the Health Science category).

Working Conditions
Physician assistants usually work in a comfortable, well-lighted environment. Those in surgery often stand for long periods, and others may do considerable walking.
Schedules vary according to practice setting, and often depend on the hours of the supervising physician. A PA's workweek may include weekends, nights, early morning hospital rounds to visit patients or being on call for emergencies. Physician assistants who work in clinics usually work a 40-hour week.

II.  Prerequisites
The following is a listing of the prerequisites for the Christian Brothers University Physician Assistant Studies Program, which is similar to other such programs:
Those interested in the program should complete the following before applying to CBU’s Physician Assistant Program:
CASPA application.
The PA Program application completed and application fee received.
Completion of a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States.
Official transcripts from all universities attended. Original transcripts will be sent to CASPA and our program for review.
Submit three letters of recommendation, one must be from a health care professional such as a Physician, Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner.
Completion of all of the pre-requisite course work with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Completion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Applicants who already hold a prior advanced graduate degree are exempt from taking the GRE exam.

What They Want  # Hours    What We Call It at CBU 
 General Biology  8    BIOL 111 Lec & Lab
   BIOL 112 Lec & Lab 
 General Chemistry  8    CHEM 113 Lec & Lab
   CHEM 114 Lec & Lab
Organic Chemistry   8    CHEM 211 Lec & Lab
   CHEM 212 Lec & Lab
Anatomy and
 8    BIOL 217 Lec & Lab
   BIOL 218 Lec & Lab
 Microbiology  4    BIOL 321 Lec & Lab
General Psychology    3     PSYC 105
Genetics   3    BIOL 311 Lec & Lab 
Calculus, statistics,
or other advanced
 3     Calculus:  MATH 131
   Statistics:  MATH 201
      or BIOL 340 

Today’s healthcare environment, while filled with many rewards, can be challenging on both a professional and personal level. In order to maximize your success both as a Physician Assistant and as a CBU Physician Assistant Studies student we believe that prior experience in healthcare and/or shadowing a healthcare provider, preferably a Physician Assistant, will provide the student with an increased understanding of today’s complicated healthcare environment and the fulfillment of providing this care.

While prior clinical experience is not a requirement for admission, evidence of such experience is strongly felt to not only be indicative of the applicant’s desire and commitment to serve as a health care provider, but also as a foundation in which the student can expand their knowledge and abilities as a medical professional. 

We prefer this experience to be completed while observing or shadowing a physician assistant as this will allow the individual to acquire specific insights into the role of the physician assistant and will provide information that will allow the individual to fully commit to this rewarding yet demanding profession.
No Advanced placement is possible.

No prerequisites older than 5 years will be accepted unless you have been employed full time in the health care field since completion of those prerequisites.

No Physician Assistant credits from another institution may be transferred into the didactic or clinical years. 

No online courses for the chemistry or biology disciplines will meet the program's prerequisite requirements.

III.   Acceptance/Admissions Statistics for the Christian Brothers University PA program

The following table shows the number of applicants and matriculants for the entering classes of 2014 through 2016:

Entering class     # Applications     # Matriculants 
2014   58  32 
2015   111 32 
2016  149 42 

IV.   The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Test Content and Structure
The GRE® revised General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do — and the skills you need to succeed — in today's demanding graduate and business school programs. The test-taker friendly design lets you skip questions within a section, go back and change answers and have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section you want to answer first. Get a look at the structure of the computer-delivered or paper-delivered GRE revised General Test.

The GRE revised General Test measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills — skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not related to a specific field of study but are important for all. Here's a look at content covered in the three test sections — Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section measures your ability to:
• analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify author's assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author's intent
• select important points; distinguish major from minor or relevant points; summarize text; understand the structure of a text
• understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts; understand relationships among words and among concepts
The Verbal Reasoning section measures your ability to understand what you read and how you apply your reasoning skills.

Get a quick view of the Verbal Reasoning Question types.

Take a closer look at the Verbal Reasoning section, including sample questions with rationales, tips and more.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to:
• understand quantitative information
• interpret and analyze quantitative information
• solve problems using mathematical models
• apply basic mathematical skills and elementary mathematical concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data interpretation
• includes real-life scenarios

The Quantitative Reasoning section includes an on-screen calculator. If you are taking the paper-delivered test, a calculator will be provided at the test center.

Get a quick view of the Quantitative Reasoning Question types.

Take a closer look at the Quantitative Reasoning section, including sample questions with rationales, tips and more.

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing section measures your ability to:
• articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
• support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
• examine claims and accompanying evidence
• sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
• control the elements of standard written English
The Analytical Writing section requires you to provide focused responses based on the tasks presented, so you can accurately demonstrate your skill in directly responding to a task.
Get a quick view of the Analytical Writing Question types.
Take a closer look at the Analytical Writing section, including sample questions with rationales, tips and more.

Modified Versions of Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Questions
The test you take may include questions that are modified versions of published questions or of questions you have already seen on the test. Some modifications are substantial; others are less apparent.
Even if a question appears to be similar to a question you have already seen, it may in fact be different and have a different answer. Pay careful attention to the wording of each question.

V.  Contact information regarding careers as a Physician Assistant

American Academy of Physician Assistants --
Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) --
Christian Brothers University PA Program --
Listing of PA programs, locations and credentials offered --
Physician Assistant Education Association --
Physician Assistant Program Directory --
Physician Assistants—National PA Page -- 

Contact information at CBU:
Dr. Stan Eisen, Director of Pre-Professional Health Programs
phone:  901-321-3447