PA program furthers success by receiving continuing accreditation

Eva Philips, Contributing writer

The Mercyhurst University Physician Assistant (PA) Program has established itself as a force to be reckoned within healthcare education.

The PA program at Mercyhurst received accreditation in 2015 for the provisional pathway granted to all new programs and has recently been awarded Accreditation-Continued status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Its success has been proven by glowing reviews during site visits by accreditors and a student first-time pass rate average of 97% on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).
Robin Duke, MPAS, PA-C Department Chair and Program Director for the Mercyhurst PA program, and Holly Jodon, MPAS PA-C former Department Chair and Program Director and current faculty member, expressed great excitement about the step from provisional to continued accreditation.

“Our goal was to obtain Accreditation-Continued, and we have” Jodon said, “it was a very successful process, a lot of work from the faculty.”

Jodon and Duke, both experienced physician assistants prior to entering the education field, explained some of the factors that set the Mercyhurst PA program apart from competitors.
“One of the strengths of our program is our small class size,” Duke said, noting that the program caps each yearly class at thirty students.

The experienced faculty holds a combined clinical experience of 131 years and combined teaching experience of nearly fifty years, as well as the emphasis on service in the Mercy tradition and the 24-month curriculum to set the Mercyhurst program apart.

The Mercyhurst PA program students have many opportunities that students at other programs may not. Students have access to interprofessional education in working with fourth-year dental students at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to learn how to perform an oral health exam.

After learning from trained professionals, they put those skills to work. Mercyhurst PA students visit Carpe Diem Academy, the after-school program for children in Erie Public Schools run by the Mercyhurst Education Department, for Dental Day, providing free oral health examinations for the children.

The Mercyhurst PA program is a graduate program, meaning that students already have earned a bachelor’s degree. Upon entering the program, students will complete a year of didactic, or classroom-based education, followed by a year of clinical rotations throughout the tri-state area.

The program is rigorous, with a 3.0 GPA requirement throughout the 2-year program, but it is rewarding. Students have the opportunity to complete clinical rotations in a variety of medical settings, helping them to gain clinical experience and discern where they would like to practice in the future. Popular specializations for physician assistants include family practice, orthopedics and surgery.

Duke sees many advantages to becoming a PA rather than a medical doctor.

PA programs are significantly shorter and less expensive than medical school and physician assistants often have a better work/life balance and more flexibility in their careers than medical doctors. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 37% increase in jobs for physician assistants from 2016 to 2026.

Graduates of the Mercyhurst program have a bright future: the program has a 100% job placement rate for all three graduated classes. The PA program at Mercyhurst is expected to flourish, producing skilled medical professionals eager to serve their communities and seize the day.