An increasing number of Physician Assistant programs are voluntarily withdrawing their ARC-PA accreditation each year, leaving their PA students without a viable path to become a physician assistant. These students have undergone a rigorous admissions cycle, met the requirements of their PA program, and successfully completed one or more semesters. Without warning, they’re told the university voluntarily withdrew accreditation—now what?
For students whose universities have withdrawn accreditation, their next step is to switch to another PA program. Yet, it’s not clear how PA programs possibly accepting them should move forward—are the incoming PA students required to re-apply to the new PA program? Because the accreditation withdrawal was not the students’ fault or responsibility, are they to be penalized?
Revising PA admissions criteria
If those of us who are in academia truly want to serve our students and work for the success of our profession, it’s time for us to review our admissions criteria. It must be revised to accommodate PA students who are suddenly without an accredited PA program.
Provide extra value points
For students who successfully completed one or more semesters before their PA program withdraw accreditation, extra value points might be provided for possessing requisite skills to succeed in another PA program. The number of points added may vary depending on the PA program; three extra value points might be a good starting number to consider.
This adjustment is not intended to reward any students whose PA program withdraw accreditation. Rather, it is intended to avoid them being penalized by equating them at the same level as new PA students who haven’t completed any semesters.
Grant advanced placement
According to the ARC-PA, advanced placement is:
“A waiver of required coursework included in the PA curriculum for applicants to the program and/or a waiver of required coursework included in the PA curriculum for currently enrolled students in the program which results in the student advancing in the curriculum without completing required curriculum components at the sponsoring institution.”
Therefore, we must consider granting incoming PA students advanced placement. This is likely the best opportunity for a student in this situation to progress in PA school without interrupting their academic progress.
For example, if a certain university PA program received the status of accreditation withdrawn, senior administration could reach out to another university with an existing PA program. The leadership of both PA programs could decide how best to transition the PA students from the first school to the next. The PA program director at the second university must decide whether additional instruction is necessary or whether additional courses will be required once the students have been enrolled. The students will receive their degree from the second university upon graduation.
In this situation, the ARC-PA can be helpful by expediting requests. The second university may submit a request for a one-time class size increase representing the class being assumed.