Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes

Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes

Competencies are the established target for the program. Learning outcomes provide evidence of how students are reaching the target. Instruction objectives in each course (found in course syllabi) are the detailed building blocks to achieve program learning outcomes and competencies.  


Program Competencies 

Competencies are defined as “the medical knowledge; interpersonal, clinical, and technical skills; professional behaviors; and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities required for PA practice” (ARC-PA, 2020). The HPU PA Program competencies are summative and reflect what a student is expected to do upon program completion to demonstrate readiness for entry-level clinical practice. Five competency domains include: 

  1. Medical Knowledge and Clinical Skills 
  2. Patient-Centered Care 
  3. Interpersonal and Communication Skills 
  4. Professionalism and Ethics
  5. Collaborative Practice and System-based Care

Medical Knowledge and Clinical Skills (MKCS) 

PA program graduates must demonstrate core knowledge of established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and demonstrate critical thinking and reasoning in applying knowledge to patient care throughout the lifespan. PA graduates must also combine medical knowledge with clinical skills to evaluate and respond to a variety of clinical presentations and/or perform interventions, with an emphasis on the primary care patient.  

1.1 Gather accurate, essential, and comprehensive information about patients through history taking, physical examination, and diagnostic and screening tests. 

1.2 Perform a comprehensive or problem-focused physical exam on patients across the lifespan. 

1.3 Distinguish between normal and abnormal health states and underlying physiology and pathophysiology 

1.4 Develop a thorough differential diagnosis that becomes more focused after collecting additional relevant medical information and prioritizes urgent and emergent health         conditions. 

1.5 Recognize urgent or emergent disease states and initiate timely evaluation and management plans.  

1.6 Synthesize medical knowledge and clinical presentation to develop a diagnosis and describe disease etiology. 

1.7 Develop a management plan for a specific medical diagnosis (or diagnoses) based on medical science knowledge and current evidence-based research. 

1.8 Apply medical science knowledge and evidence-based research to determine short and long-term health risks for individual patients. 

1.9 Apply disease prevention and health promotion strategies for health maintenance and/or management of chronic disease states. 

1.10 Identify appropriate sources for patient referral to ensure a comprehensive approach to and continuity of care.  

1.11 Perform clinical and surgical procedures appropriate to a patient clinical presentation and within the scope of PA practice.  

1.12 Demonstrate investigative and critical thinking in clinical situations. 

1.13 Access and interpret current and credible sources of medical information and scientific research. 


Patient-Centered Care (PCC) 

PA program graduates must demonstrate a deep understanding of the multiple factors and influences on health and health in the context of individual patient needs and preferences. Additionally, graduates must possess a strong understanding of the biopsychosocial model of health, how varies factors influence individual patient health, and the connection with health equity.   

2.1 Identify, respect, and care about patients’ differences, values, preferences, and expressed needs in all aspects of care across the lifespan.  

2.2 Support patient autonomy and shared decision-making. 

2.3 Assess biopsychosocial needs across the life span and the impact of behaviors, cultural norms, socioeconomic, and socioenvironmental factors on health, disease, and care seeking 

2.4 Recognize the impact of social and political determinants of health, structural racism, and implicit bias on individual and community health outcomes. 

2.5 Provide care that is responsive to- and respectful of diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, disabilities, varying levels of health literacy, and other communication needs.  

2.6 Recognize patient vulnerability within the perceived power differential of the patient-provide relationship and the impact of historical trauma on indigenous and minority populations.  

2.7 Practice cultural humility in all patient encounters. 

2.8 Demonstrate accountability, responsibility, and leadership for removing barriers to health and advancing health equity. 


Interpersonal and Communication Skills (ICS) 

PA program graduates must demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in an effective exchange of information with patients, their families, and health professionals.

3.1 Accurately and adequately document medical information for clinical, legal, quality, and financial purposes.  

3.2 Articulate one’s role and responsibilities to patients, families, communities, and other professionals. 

3.3 Demonstrate sensitivity and compassion in all conversations, including challenging discussions about death, end of life, adverse events, bad news, disclosure of errors, and other sensitive topics. 

3.4 Communicate clear and concise information to patients, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team. 

3.5 Recognize communication barriers and provide solutions. 

3.6 Participate in difficult conversations with patients and colleagues. 


Professionalism and Ethics (PE) 

PA program graduates must be prepared to practice medicine ethically, adhere to legal standards and requirements, and demonstrate professional maturity.

4.1 Adhere to standards of care in the role of the PA in the health care team. 

4.2 Exhibit self-awareness to identify strengths, address deficiencies, and recognize limits in knowledge and expertise. 

4.3 Demonstrate responsiveness to patient needs that supersedes self-interest. 

4.4 Demonstrate emotional resilience, stability, adaptability, flexibility, and tolerance of ambiguity. 

4.5 Demonstrate compassion, integrity, and respect for others.  

4.6 Provided equitable care to diverse patient populations, including diversity in sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, culture, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, and abilities. 

4.7 Demonstrate commitment to personal wellness and self-care that supports the provision of quality patient care. 

4.8 Comply with relevant laws, policies, and regulations. 

4.9 Demonstrate respect for the dignity and privacy of patients and compliance with informed consent, confidentiality and privacy standards, regulations, and laws.  

4.10 Disclose errors and demonstrate accountability and an understanding of appropriate steps to take when an error occurs.  



PA program graduates must function as an effective member of an interdisciplinary health care team and understand and navigate the complexities and demands of the health care system.

5.1 Appreciate and uphold the value of the collaborative physician/PA relationship 

5.2 Work effectively as part of an interprofessional healthcare team.   

5.3 Identify and coordinate patient referrals to other clinicians, public health professionals, and community resources relevant to individual patient need and provider clinical specialty. 

5.4 Identify, analyze, and implement new knowledge, guidelines, and clinical standards that have been demonstrated to improve outcomes. 

5.5 Recognize the value of monitoring and reporting for quality improvement. 

5.6 Understand how practice decisions impact cost and organizational finances, and the importance of reducing medical waste, while keeping quality care and the patient’s needs foremost.  

5.7 Identify complexities in health systems and barriers related to incongruous systems that contribute to the challenge of improving health for individuals and communities.  

5.8 Utilize best practices in health information technology and electronic communication to enhance patient care, especially when barriers are present for in person interactions.  




1. ARC-PA Syllabi, Program Competencies, Learning Outcomes & Instructional Objectives, Standards 5th edition, A Guide for PA Program Faculty, November 2020 

2. NCCPA Competencies for the Physician Assistant (PA) Profession (Adopted 2005, amended 2012, 2021) 

3. PAEA Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates, September 2018 

4. Primary Care Collaborative, PCPCC's Education & Training Task Force Primary Care Workforce Competencies, March 2013. 

Learning outcomes are defined as “the medical knowledge; interpersonal, clinical, and technical skills; professional behaviors; and clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities that have been attained by the student at the completion of a curricular component, course or program.” (ARC-PA, 2020). The program learning outcomes reflect the knowledge, skills, or behavior that a student is expected to demonstrate at the conclusion of the program. 


Program Learning Outcomes 

  1. Execute a complete evaluation of a patient complaint or presentation of disease/illness utilizing history taking and physical exam skills, diagnostic studies when indicated, medical knowledge, clinical reasoning, and patient context. (MKCS; PCC; PE)
  2. Formulate a diagnosis and appropriate therapeutic management plan that is based on fundamentals of core biomedical and clinical science, current and credible evidence-based medical information, assessment of risk-benefit, and patient preferences within the context of the individual’s life, health goals, personal values, and expectations. (MKCS; PCC; PE; CPSB)
  3. Perform clinical and medical interventions as indicated to include diagnostic procedures, counseling, therapeutic procedures, and surgery. Obtain and document the appropriate informed consent for such tests and procedures as needed. (MKCS; PCC; PE; CPSB)
  4. Interpret and communicate medical knowledge and health information so that patients and their families can understand, make meaning out of the information conveyed to them, and participate in shared decision making. This includes individual counseling and patient education to consider level of health literacy, cultural context, and individual patient needs.  (ICS; PE)
  5. Provide health maintenance and disease prevention/health promotion counseling and screening recommendations to patients across the life span based on clinical standards, evidence-based guidelines and individual patient risk, preferences, and health goals. (MKCS; PCC; CPSB)
  6. Demonstrate professionalism, clear communication, and ethical practice when interacting with collaborating physicians, other members of the healthcare team, patients, family, peers, staff, and the public. (ICS; PE; CPSB)
  7. Critically evaluate and address barriers and facilitators to healthcare access and factors that impact health equity in all stages of patient care delivery and care coordination. (PCC; PE; CPSB)