Core Competencies for New PA Graduates

“Core Competencies for New PA Graduates” focuses on the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that all PA students should be able to demonstrate by the time they graduate.

PA staff interact with members.

Creating a Shared Skill Set

PAEA is committed to providing tools and resources to give all programs the greatest opportunity for success, and “Core Competencies for New PA Graduates” is no exception. While each program is responsible for designing its own unique curricula and determining learning outcomes based on its mission and goals, there is the need to establish consistency in the foundational knowledge, skills, and attitudes required of all new graduates. “Core Competencies for New PA Graduates” is PAEA’s first attempt at developing a set of competencies designed for use by PA programs. The competencies document is a dynamic one. Implementation and use of the competencies will inform a continuous evolution of evaluation and feedback to address changing patient and societal needs.

“It is not just about educational outcomes, ultimately it is about patient outcomes.”

Leading competency-based educator, Carol Carraccio, in her keynote address at the August 2018 Competency-Based Medical Education Summit in Basel, Switzerland

Why PAEA Decided to Take the Lead…

Since “Competencies for the PA Profession” was first developed in 2005, it has served as the sole guide for students, programs, practitioners, and key stakeholders to define the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for PAs. The thoughtful work that went into developing these competencies continues to serve the profession. Building off of that important work, PAEA set out to bring greater clarity to the competencies needed at a specific point in time — graduation from PA school. “Core Competencies for New PA Graduates” is focused on the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that all PA students should be able to demonstrate by the time they graduate.

Establish Consistency

Establish a level of consistency in the knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) that new graduates will be responsible for and to assist the development of PA curricula.

Encourage Dialogue

Creating a space for dialogue among employers, practitioners, and educators to align expectations.

Support Graduates

Inform programs of the competencies that new graduates will need for success in today’s health care landscape.

Align Expectations

Develop a shared language between educators and employers on the expected KSAs of new graduates.

Student working in the library.

What Do We Expect the New Graduate Competencies to Accomplish?

PAEA’s goal is to serve as a resource for programs to help them make decisions about learning goals and objectives, to develop curricula and assessments, and to use as a guide for curriculum mapping. To do this, we want to create a shared understanding between faculty and students of the expectations for demonstrating competence by graduation, as well as assist programs in better understanding the health care landscape and employers’ expectations. And finally, we want to serve as a launch pad for research and scholarly innovation around curricular and assessment best practices.

A Rigorous and Evidence-Informed Process

We want all of our members to have confidence in the new graduate core competencies. That is why we employed a rigorous, evidence-informed approach to determine the list of 49 competencies in the new graduate core competency framework. To be done correctly, developing competencies cannot be an insular endeavor. While PAEA took the lead on developing these competencies, our primary role was that of convener. We brought together and interviewed hundreds of stakeholders from a wide diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and professions to inform our work. In March 2016, PAEA convened a group of 61 stakeholders for the specific purpose of learning first-hand what employers, educators, industry leaders, and professionals representing multiple disciplines believed to be the most important competencies for new graduates entering today’s complex health care environment.

We also conducted an extensive search of the literature on competency-based medical education, mastery-based learning, primary care, population health, health literacy, systems science, and cultural humility. We developed a crosswalk to compare the current (2012) “Competencies for the PA Profession” with competency frameworks from medicine, nursing, family medicine, the National Academy of Medicine, oral health, and population health, as well as cultural and linguistic competencies.

PAEA could not have — nor would we have — developed competencies without gathering as much information and input as possible. PAEA is not responsible for and did not set out to codify the profession in totality. Rather, PAEA, as the education association representing all current 238 PA programs and growing, in collaboration with the cross-org partners (AAPA, NCCPA, and ARC-PA) and representatives from across the health professions, has attempted to provide its member programs with a set of nationally informed foundational competencies that all graduates should be able to demonstrate regardless of the program they attended.

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