Making the Decision

Applicants and prospective students should review and carefully consider the information below in planning for successful completion of the program.

1. Program Length

The physician assistant program is a full-time, 26-month continuous program of study that begins with the first five-week summer session (early June). Orientation may be scheduled for late May. Year I is largely classroom, laboratory and lecture with some clinical assignments. Year II is largely clinical.

2. Employment/Financial Considerations

Outside employment while enrolled is incompatible with program success. Students should plan ahead so that employment, full- or part-time, is not necessary during the entire length of the program. No special consideration will be made for students who choose for any reason to ignore this recommendation.

3. Planning for Family Obligations

Arrangements for childcare and other family responsibilities must be planned in advance with back-up arrangements in place so that students are able to attend all classes and complete assignments on time. Absence, lateness and late coursework may be cause for course failure.

4. Family Support Systems

The program of study is highly intense and can stress the student’s personal, family, social and financial resources. Support of family and friends is crucial to achieving success in this program. Candidates are encouraged to prepare family members well in advance.

5. Program Sequence and Advance Standing

Students must complete all class and clinical assignments on time and in the correct sequence. The program awards no advance standing. Students who leave the program and wish to return must reapply to begin again.

6. Student Travel Costs

Students are fully responsible for all transportation costs (including parking, housing, and meals) related to their clinical assignments and must have reliable transportation in order to attend clinical sites throughout the greater Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area and beyond. Many students will have at least one assignment distant enough from the program that housing is required.

7. Clinical Assignments

Students generally have limited choice in their selection of clinical sites (within the exception of the elective rotations) and must attend wherever assigned at the discretion of the clinical coordinator.

8. Academic Schedule—Year I

Classroom schedules are generally Monday — Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. during the first year of study. Occasionally attendance during evening hours is required.

9. Clinical Schedule—Year II

Clinical schedules will vary based upon the type and nature of the clinical care being provided at each clinical site. Some clinical sites may require evening, night, weekend and on-call hours. All students must be prepared to meet the requirements of their assigned clinical site.

10. Smart Phones

Physician assistant students are required to own a cell phone with smart phone capabilities.  Students are responsibility for purchasing and or contracting for cell phone services during their time in the program.

11. Computer Requirements

The physician assistant program requires that each physician assistant student acquire a multimedia capable personal computer. (Please check with the program before making a purchase.)

Minimum requirements include:

  • laptop
  • multimedia package
  • Windows 10 or Windows 8 operating system
  • Microsoft WORD word-processing software (the college standard is Microsoft WORD 2010)
  • WiFi capability
  • printer

12. Email Accounts

The program requires that students establish an email account with both Towson University and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Important communication among students, faculty and staff will occur via these email addresses.

13. Physical Exam Practice

PA Students are required to act as surrogate patients for fellow students for history taking and physical examinations (with the exception of the breast and genitalia). All students must be willing to allow themselves to be examined by both male and female fellow students and be examined with full body exposure. Women must wear a two-piece bathing suit or sports bra (must leave most of the anterior thorax exposed) and gym shorts. Full exposure of the abdomen is required as well as exposure of the chest (with the exception of the areas covered by the sports bra for examination of the heart and lungs). Men must wear gym shorts. (Students who have religious or cultural inhibitions regarding the above are responsible for informing the instructor prior to participation. The instructor will make special arrangements to accommodate these concerns.)

14. Criminal Background Checks

Although criminal background checks are not required for acceptance into the program, applicants should be aware that state medical boards may conduct criminal background checks on PA applicants for state licensure. In most instances, individuals with a criminal background will not be granted licensure. Additionally, many clinical placement sites for the program require student criminal background checks. Students who are assigned a clinical site where criminal background checks are required and who are denied access to any clinical site based on the criminal background check may be dismissed from the program.

15. Drug and Alcohol Testing

Although drug and alcohol testing are not required for acceptance into the program, program clinical sites may require routine random drug and alcohol screening or may require testing based on student inappropriate behavior in the clinical setting. Students required by a clinical setting to undergo screening or testing who test positive for drugs or alcohol are subject to dismissal from the program.

16. Information Technology and Literacy Expectations of Entering Students

Entering students are expected to possess the following computer skills upon entry into the program:

  • word processing (Microsoft Word preferred)
  • presentation software (PowerPoint preferred)
  • Internet browsing capability

17. Preparing for the Study of Medicine

The study load for entering PA students is substantial and clearly greater than loads that most undergraduate or graduate students are expected to carry. Applicants and those preparing for admission may want to investigate Study Without Stress: Mastering Medical Sciences by E. Kelman & K. Straker (ISBN: 9780761916796), Sage Publications. This book is available for purchase on Amazon.  This book represents 25 years of work of two medical educators who did study skills workshops for medical students. It has practical information, both general and specific, that covers the gamut of the challenges of medical education.

18. Program Costs

A description of required tuition, fees and other costs can be found in the Program Booklet (PDF).

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