Education & Training
All Physician Assistants (PAs) must successfully complete a PA graduate program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Accredited graduate degree programs include classroom instruction, lab instruction, and clinical rotations. Most programs are about 26 months in duration and include at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.
A geriatrics curriculum for PAs is required for graduation at some universities. The geriatrics rotation gives students a well-rounded, inter-professional experience in managing the special needs of the older adults in a variety of common settings. The prerequisite for most rotations is successful completion of didactic phase curriculum (classroom and lab instruction). This helps to enhance the knowledge, skills, and experience of PA students as they begin working in a clinical setting.
Orientation, team-based activities, curriculum and resources online, grand round participation, pre- and post-curriculum testing and simulations, and journal articles are offered to most PA students across their academic careers. Some programs also are interprofessional, including work with medical, nursing, and pharmacy students.
PA students are provided with geriatrics resources. Expert teaching is generally provided by geriatrics faculty and PAs in the program. Students generally rotate through nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, outpatient geriatrics clinic, hospital consult service, assisted living facility, wound care, palliative and hospice care. As a PA student, you will learn concepts of person-centered care, transitions of care and discharge planning, comprehensive geriatrics assessment, mobility management, ethics, end-of-life care, nursing home care, and best practices for addressing geriatrics syndromes. Further, some programs have developed or are developing one-year training programs for residency in geriatrics and providing experience in clinical and academic settings to expose residents to advanced geriatrics concepts.
Examinations & Licensure
After completing a PA graduate program, candidates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, and then they may apply for state licensure.
Several studies have clearly shown that PAs in geriatrics are integral team members. These studies have found that, after introducing PAs to a nursing home, annual hospital admissions fell by 38%. PAs coordinate treatment in teams and help manage coexisting chronic care conditions for frail older adults at home, in a healthcare facility/hospital, and in office-based practice settings. In addition, PAs can help collaborate in teaching, research, and quality improvement initiatives in academic settings, as well as serving as integral participants in Medicare and caregiver meetings. PAs often serve as primary on-call providers, which allows them to visit older adults outside of the medical practice to perform initial consults and follow-up care.
With thanks to Priya Mendiratta, MD, MPH, AGSF