PA Curriculum | Saint Francis University
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PA Curriculum

  • Pre-PA Curriculum Years

    • For the first three years, Saint Francis University Physician Assistant 5-yr students prepare for the PA curriculum phase of their training. This training is designed to provide a solid foundation in the preparatory science courses, introduction to medicine classes and all the components for a liberal arts education.
    • Provides the students with the knowledge base required to be successful in the professional phase of the Program.
    • The arrangement of the introductory PA courses allows for role concept and knowledge base development, while providing a bridge to the professional phase of the curriculum.
    • Requires completion of 100 hours of health care experience (volunteer or paid) prior to entry into the professional phase. This experience will help to develop a role concept by providing a clinical PA role model to emulate; 40 of the 100 hours must be spent shadowing a clinically practicing PA.
    • Download the Undergraduate PA Paradigm (Effective Fall 2019). or Undergraduate PA Paradigm (Prior to Fall 2018)

    Didactic and Clinical Years

    • Consists of three didactic semesters and three clinical semesters (see below).
    • The didactic portion commences in the summer semester (late May, early June)and proceeds through the following spring.
    • The clinical portion begins with the subsequent summer semester and includes 45 weeks of clinical rotations.
    • A continually evolving curriculum that provide students with new modes of learning experiences that supplement the traditional lecture format. Among these are:
      • small-group critical-thinking sessions
      • simulated patient encounters
    • Various components of the didactic curriculum are integrated to develop a holistic approach to the delivery of primary patient care.
    • Utilizes new technologies in medical education including computer-based learning modules, video tele-conferences, and on-line testing.
    • Students must have a negative urine drug screen and have been cleared by Student Health in order to attend clinical experiences. Not attending clinical experiences may affect your progression in the PA Program and prevent or delay graduation.
    • A criminal background check and pediatric abuse clearance will be required prior to entrance into the professional phase of the Program. A positive hit or report on the background check or clearances will be forwarded to the SFU legal counsel for review and recommendations. A positive report and/or failure to complete the process in a timely manner may delay your progression in the PA Program and prevent or delay clinical experiences and/or graduation.   
  • Didactic Semesters

    The didactic year is designed on the medical model to prepare students to become primary care clinicians. The three-semester didactic curriculum is built around medicine modules. Each module focuses on a particular organ system providing relevant instruction in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, diagnostic evaluation and pharmacology, as well as genetic implications and health maintenance strategies. Other courses of study include introduction to U.S. health care, history-taking and patient education skills, clinical skills, well child, public health and evidence-based medicine. As part of medicine modules, the anatomy portion utilizes cadaver dissection to complement lecture presentation. On average, didactic students are in class from 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM (M-F) with occasional weekend and evening responsibilities. Please note, the Program does not grant any type of advanced placement for courses within the didactic or clinical year. The didactic curriculum is as follows:   

  • Summer Semester (16 credits)
    • Introduction to Medicine Module (2 credits) 
    • Hematology Medicine Module (1.5 credits) 
    • Endocrine Medicine Module (2 credits) 
    • Neurology Medicine Module (3 credits) 
    • Dermatology Medicine Module (2.5 credits)
    • History Taking and Patient Education Skills (2 credits) 
    • Evidence Based Medicine (1 credit)
    • Public Health (1 credit)    
    • Introduction to U.S. Health Care (1 credit)    
    • Graduate Physical Examination - for graduate students only (0 credit) 

    Fall Semester (18 credits)
    • Musculoskeletal Medicine Module (5 credits)
    • Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat Medicine Module (3 credits) 
    • Behavioral Medicine Module (3 credits)
    • Cardiovascular Medicine Module (5 credits)
    • Clinical Skills (2 credits)
    • Clinical Experiences and Medical Documentation (0 credit) 

    Spring Semester (18 credits)
    • Pulmonary Medicine Module (4 credits)
    • Gastrointestinal/Nutrition Medicine Module (5 credits)
    • Genitourinary Medicine Module (2 credits) 
    • Reproductive Medicine Module (5 credits) 
    • Well Child (2 credits) 
    • Clinical Experiences and Medical Documentation (0 credit)
    • Didactic Comprehensive Evaluation (0 credit) 
  • Clinical Semesters

    The clinical curriculum constitutes a full-time off-campus experience which allows students to develop their clinical skills under the supervision of physicians and other allied health personnel. The rotations are divided into nine, 5-week blocks. 

  • Each 5-week rotation period equals four credits and is composed of the following:

    • Behavioral Medicine
    • Emergency Medicine
    • Family Practice I
    • Family Practice II or Primary Care
    • General Surgery
    • Internal Medicine
    • Women's Health
    • Pediatrics
    • Elective   

  • Summer Semester (12 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits) 
    Fall Semester (14 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Ethical Issues (2 credits)
    Spring Semester (16 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits) 
    • Clinical Rotation (4 credits)
    • Transition to Practice (4 credits) 

  • Other Duties

    • During rotations, students work as team members, interacting with physicians, graduate physician assistants, and other health professionals in all aspects of patient care. Students work in a variety of clinical sites, including private practices and hospitals; in a variety of settings - from rural family practices to inner-city clinics to major medical centers.
    • During the clinical year, students will complete the Ethical Issues (two credits) course via distance learning. This course will provide the student with the opportunity to understand the relationships between important ethical schools of thought and to utilize this ethical framework in the analysis of contemporary societal and medical issues.
    • The clinical year students are also required to complete a Transition to Clinical Practice course (four credits). This course is designed to provide a bridge experience for the student who is completing clinical rotations by addressing issues germane to everyday PA practice. Included within this course is a capstone experience which must be completed at a satisfactory level.
    • Toward the end of clinical year, students must successfully pass a summative evaluation. This evaluation  will consist of various components to verify a student is prepared to enter clinical practice. 
    • At the end of each 5-week block, students return to campus for scheduled Transition to Practice (TP) Days. Multiple activities are planned for these Transition Days, including problem-solving and review sessions, patient encounter simulations, post-graduate career counseling, and end-of-rotation tests. These TP Days allow students to practice both their clinical and didactic skills and allow faculty to review their progress.
    • Although the Department faculty make the final decision concerning clinical year placement, student input is solicited on where they would like to complete their rotations.
    • The majority of clinical sites are in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states, however placement at clinical sites may require travel to sites elsewhere in the United States (e.g. Florida, Arizona). The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (US Department of Education) specifies in the State Authorization Regulation that educational institutions must acquire authorization from any state in which it "operates." As such, The University administration may not authorize clinical rotations or internships in all states. Please consult the  State Authorization and Licensure web page: ( for further information. 
    • Housing during the clinical year is the student's responsibility.

    For questions concerning the clinical year please contact: Ms. Stephanie Eckenrode.