Frequently Asked Questions

The PA Program at JMU

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How long is the Program and how is the curriculum arranged?

The PA Program is 28-months in total length. The didactic phase of the Program is 16-months long and consist mostly of on-campus, classroom courses with a few direct-patient experiences. The clinical phase of the Program is 12-months in total length and is comprised of 40 weeks of supervised clinical experiences, interspersed with some days of on-campus classroom work every eight weeks. For the clinical phase, students are assigned to work with physicians and other clinicians in a variety of medical specialties. These supervised clinical rotations take place mostly in Virginia with a few being in immediately adjacent states. Students must be able to travel and relocate frequently during the clinical year.

Who teaches in the program?

  • Full-time Program Faculty: five PAs and one physician. Learn more here: www.healthprof.jmu.edu/pa/directory.html
  • Other Faculty: two members of the Biosciences department
  • Adjuncts & Guest Lecturers: physicians, PAs, NPs, pharmacists, etc from the community
  • Clinical Preceptors: preceptors for supervised clinical practice experiences (clinical rotations) are primarily physicians, with some PA's and NP's as well.

How have JMU graduates performed on the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE)?

The table below shows the pass rates for the most recent cohorts for which scores are available.

JMU student PANCE pass rate by year
Year Pass rate for first-time takers
2013 96%
2014 100%
2015 100%
2016 97%
2017 100%
2018 96%
2019 100%

What is the job market for PAs?

Demand for medical care will increase because of a growing and aging US population. In addition, several chronic diseases are on the rise (diabetes, heart disease, obesity) and will therefore drive the need for physician assistants to provide both preventive care and treatment of those affected.

The role of physician assistants is expected to increase as states continue to allow PAs to perform more procedures and as third party reimbursement companies expand their coverage of physician assistant services. Physician assistants are also expected to play a greater role in routine medical care because they are more cost effective than physicians. As more physicians retire or choose to enter specialty areas of medicine, more physician assistants are expected to fill the role of primary care provider. Lastly, the number of individuals who have access to primary care services will increase as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

According to the "Occupational Outlook Handbook" published by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 38% from 2012 – 2022. This is "much faster than the average for all occupations". Therefore good job prospects are expected, especially for physician assistants working in primary care and for those working in medically underserved and rural areas of the country.

Source: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-6

Where are the Program's supervised clinical rotation sites and how are students matched with sites?

The PA Program requires each student to complete 40 weeks of supervised clinical experiences. These include eight weeks each in internal medicine and family medicine, four weeks each in obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine and general surgery, and a four-week rotation period in which the student may elect the area of medicine. These rotations take place mostly in Virginia with some in immediately adjacent states. Students must be able to travel and relocate frequently during the clinical year. Students do not choose the sites or the order in which the rotations occur. The faculty assigns students to rotation sites and also determines the students' schedules. Several months before students begin the clinical phase of the Program, they provide information to the Director of Clinical Education about personal factors that they would like considered when the Director of Clinical Education makes the clinical rotation assignments. There is no guarantee that the PA Program will be able to accommodate the factors suggested by the students, but the Program does attempt to reduce the inconvenience associated with clinical rotation placement assignments. Students are not required to find or provide sites or preceptors for any of their supervised clinical rotations.

May I work while in the PA Program?

While the Program does not completely prohibit one from employment; it is strongly advised against. Employment during the Program may lead to poor academic performance due to the rigor and fast pace of the curriculum. No concessions or time-off will be granted to students to maintain employment of any kind.

What are program expenses?

A cohort tuition model is used for students in the PA Program. The tuition for this group/cohort of students, and each cohort thereafter, will be set before the cohort begins the program and will remain the same throughout the seven semesters/28 months of the program. More information here.

Are there any service opportunities while in the Program?

Yes, service opportunities are plentiful and typically fall under the umbrella of the Physician Assistant Student Society. This service oriented volunteerism helps the Program meet its goal of community and civic engagement.

Does the Program allow transfer of graduate level coursework from other institutions?

The PA Program is a closed cohort model and the curriculum is arranged in a lock-step sequence. Therefore, we do not accept graduate transfer credits. Often these courses however, may be utilized to meet our prerequisite requirements.

Does the Program allow students to waive certain courses or have advanced standing?

No courses within the curriculum will be waived for any reason and the Program does not provide advanced standing.

Is Trujillo, Peru the only location where the elective international rotation allowed?

Yes, at this point in time Peru is the only location available. Other sites may develop in the future, but there are no immediate plans.

Why did the PA Program decide upon Trujillo, Peru for the elective international rotation site?

There are several reasons:

  • Plane travel to South America is more affordable than travel to Europe, Africa, or elsewhere.
  • The company we have partnered with, Medical Electives, is fantastic! They are based in Trujillo.
  • Although a full day of travel is necessary to get to Trujillo, there is only a 1-hour time difference from Harrisonburg, VA. Therefore students will not have any jet lag upon arrival in Peru.

Is housing available on-campus?

No, JMU does not provide on-campus housing options for graduate students. However, there are plenty of off-campus housing options that are very close to campus. This includes apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes for rent.

Do you offer a part-time program?

No, our program is a 28-month, full-time program.