Physician Assistant M.S. Technical Standards

Cohorts begin early Summer | Program length 27 months | Credits 116 | Format In-person, full time 

Northwestern College is dedicated to our mission of educating students to be exceptional, empathetic physician assistants (PAs). The Northwestern College PA program seeks to graduate students with the tools necessary to function in a wide variety of clinical settings. Medicine is a physically and mentally demanding profession, and medical providers are routinely asked to place the interests of their patients above their own. The Northwestern College PA program has a responsibility to train PAs who are able to care for their patients. Northwestern College is supportive of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008 (ADA) and seeks to provide opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities. The Northwestern College PA program will provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to complete the essential functions of a medical provider. However, the safety and welfare of a patient shall never be put in jeopardy as a result of an effort to accommodate a disability. 

The abilities that PAs must possess to practice safely are reflected in the technical standards below. All applicants must meet these technical standards with or without reasonable accommodations. These standards have been established to ensure that an applicant has the ability to perform the requirements of the Northwestern College PA program and to practice medicine safely and responsibly. Students must also successfully meet curricular requirements, pass tests and evaluations, and successfully participate in clinical experiences, with or without reasonable accommodations. Students must be able to demonstrate they can perform the technical standards upon matriculation through graduation from PA school. Any student claiming a disability and seeking an academic adjustment or reasonable accommodation must follow the procedures outlined below.

Specifically, a student in the Northwestern College PA program must have adequate abilities and skills in the following five areas

  1. Observation
  2. Communication
  3. Sensory and Motor Function
  4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities
  5. Behavioral and Social Attributes


Students must be able to accurately and actively observe and participate in demonstrations, lab exercises, and patient care scenarios. Students must be able to acquire information from electronic media, written documents, films, slides or videos. Students must also be able to interpret X-ray and other graphic images such as EKG's, with or without the use of corrective or assistive devices. Thus, functional use of vision, receptive communication and sensation are necessary.


Students must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients in order to collect relevant information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, perceive non-verbal communications, and convey necessary medical information. Students must also be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with other members of the health care team. Communication includes not only speech or face-to-face communication but reading and writing. In emergency situations, Students must be able to understand and convey information essential for the safe and effective care of patients in a clear, unambiguous and rapid fashion. In addition, Students must have the ability to relate information to and receive information from patients in a caring and confidential manner. Since the health care team communicates in English, the Student must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in English, in speech or other face-to-face communication, reading and writing. They must be capable of completing appropriate medical records and documents and plans according to the protocol in a thorough and timely manner.

Sensory and motor function

Students must possess motor skills sufficient to perform palpation, percussion, auscultation, and other basic diag­nostic maneuvers. They must be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide basic medical care, such as airway management, placement of catheters, suturing, phlebotomy, application of sufficient pressure to control bleeding, simple obstetrical maneuvers, etc. Such actions require coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses of touch and vision. Students are expected to perform all of the procedures and treatments as may be required by a particular course or clinical rotation. Students must have the ability to remain awake and alert.

Intellectual-conceptual, integrative and quantitative abilities

Physician assistants are required to effectively solve clinical problems, requiring the ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize. Students must be able to independently access and interpret medical histories or files; identify sig­nificant findings from history, physical examination, and laboratory data; provide a reasoned explanation for likely diagnoses and prescribed medications and therapy, and recall and retain information in an efficient and timely manner. The ability to incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and the medical literature in formulating diagnoses and plans is essential. Good judgment in patient assessment and diagnostic and therapeutic planning is essential.

Behavioral and social attributes

Students must possess the ability to use their intellectual capacity, exercise good judgment, and promptly complete all respon­sibilities attendant to the diagnosis under potentially stressful and/or emergency circumstances. They must also be able to develop empathic, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. They must be able to adapt to changing environments and to learn in the face of uncertainties inherent in the practice of medicine. Compassion, integrity, ethical standards, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation are all personal qualities that will be assessed during the admissions and educational process. The students must be able to use supervision appropriately and act independently when indicated.

Students are expected to accept and assimilate appropriate suggestions and criticism and, if necessary, respond by modifying their behavior. The unpredictable needs of patients are at the heart of becoming a physician assistant. Academic and clinical responsibilities of students may require their presence during day and evening hours, any day of the week, at unpredictable times and for unpredictable durations of time. Students must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients.

When indicated, students unable to resolve deficiencies in these areas with appropriate accommodation will be counseled to pursue alternate career paths.


The ARC-PA has granted  Accreditation-Provisional status to the  Northwestern College Physician Assistant Program sponsored by  Northwestern College

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA  Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the  Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.  Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class. The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at