Admission, Retention and Graduation Technical Standards


The physician assistant degree is recognized as a broad undifferentiated degree requiring the acquisition of general knowledge and basic skills in all applicable domains of medicine. The education of a physician assistant requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills and development of judgment through patient care experience in preparation for independent and appropriate decision-making required in practice. The current practice of medicine emphasizes collaboration among medical providers, other health care professionals, the patient and the patient’s family.


Elon University, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, endeavors to select applicants who have the ability to become highly competent providers. The Elon physician assistant curriculum adheres to the Standards of the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Within these standards, the Department of Physician Assistant Studies has the freedom and ultimate responsibility for the selection and evaluation of its students; the design, implementation and evaluation of its curriculum; and the determination of who should be awarded a degree. Admission and retention decisions are based not only on prior satisfactory academic achievement but also on nonacademic factors, which serve to ensure that the candidate can complete the essential functions, admission, retention, graduation technical standards, of the academic program required for graduation.

The department has the responsibility to the public to assure that its graduates can become fully competent and caring physician assistants, capable of doing benefit and not harm. Thus, it is important that persons admitted possess the intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian concern, and physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice medicine.  The Department of Physician Assistant Studies, as part of Elon University, is committed to the principle of equal opportunity. The department does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, creed, national or ethnic origin, disability, or veteran status. When requested, the university will provide reasonable special services and accommodations to otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities.


Technical standards, as distinguished from academic standards, refer to those physical, cognitive and behavioral abilities required for satisfactory completion of all aspects of the curriculum, and the development of professional attributes required by the faculty of all students at graduation. A candidate for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) degree must have abilities and skills in five varieties, including observation; communication; motor; intellectual; and behavioral and social. Technological compensation can be made for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but a candidate should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner.

  1. Observation: The candidate must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, including but not limited to physiologic and pharmacologic demonstrations in animals, microbiologic cultures, and microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation necessitates the functional use of the sense of vision and somatic sensation. It is enhanced by the functional use of the sense of smell.
  2. Communication: A candidate should be able to speak, to hear, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity, and posture, and perceive nonverbal communications. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. Communication includes not only speech but reading and writing. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written form with all members of the health care team.
  3. Motor: Candidates should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers. A candidate should be able to do basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, CBC, etc.), carry out diagnostic procedures (proctoscopy, paracentesis, etc.), and read EKGs and x-rays. A candidate should be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of physician assistants are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, the opening of obstructed airways, the suturing of simple wounds, and the performance of simple obstetrical maneuvers. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.
  4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, and synthesis. Problem solving, the critical skill demanded of physician assistants, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition, the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
  5. Behavioral and Social Attributes: A candidate must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admissions and education processes.

*Adopted from “Recommendations of the AAMC Special Advisory Panel on Technical Standards for Medical School Admission,” approved by the AAMC Executive Council on January 18, 1979.