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The definition of Technical Standards are personal attributes and capabilities essential for admission, promotion, and graduation of a UNC-CH Physician Assistant Student. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) requires all Physician Assistant (PA) programs publish technical standards for admission.

A UNC PA student must have knowledge, skills, competency, and professionalism required to master the didactic and clinical requirements of the curriculum.

Skills fundamental to the Physician Assistant profession and curriculum include but are not limited to:

• Problem-solving given verbal, visual, and written information, within a limited time frame;
• Clinical reasoning and decision making within a limited time frame;
• Visual-spatial integration;
• Insight and judgment for safety and prognostication;
• Written and verbal communication among group members;
• Time management to coordinate course requirements and clinical responsibilities.

The following technical standards describe the non-academic qualifications required in addition to academic achievements which the PA program considers essential for successful completion of its curriculum.

Attitudinal, behavioral, interpersonal, and emotional attributes:

The candidate should have the capacity to learn and understand the ethical principles and state and federal laws that govern medical practice and to perform within these guidelines. The candidate should be able to relate to colleagues, staff, and patients with honesty, integrity, non-discrimination, self-sacrifice, and dedication.

The candidate should be able to understand and use the power, special privileges, and trust inherent in the PA-patient relationship for the patient’s benefit, and to know and avoid the behaviors that constitute misuse of this power. The UNC diversity policy requires that candidates have the interpersonal skills necessary to interact respectfully and appropriately with all persons regardless of race/ethnicity, belief systems and socioeconomic status.

The candidate must be of sufficient emotional health to utilize fully his/her intellectual ability, to exercise good judgment, to complete patient care responsibilities promptly, and to relate to patients, families, and colleagues with courtesy, compassion, maturity, and respect for their dignity.

The ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a professional team member is essential. The candidate must display this emotional health in spite of stressful work, changing environments, and clinical uncertainties. The candidate must be able to modify behavior in response to constructive criticism. The candidate must be open to examining personal attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes (which may negatively affect patient care and professional relationships).


The study and ongoing practice of medicine often involves taxing workloads and stressful situations. A candidate must have the physical and emotional stamina to maintain a high level of function in the face of these likely working conditions.

Intellectual Skills:

A candidate must possess a range of intellectual skills that allow him/her to master the broad and complex body of knowledge that comprises the PA curriculum. The student’s learning style must be effective and efficient. The ultimate goal will be to solve difficult problems and to make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. A candidate must be able to memorize, perform scientific measurement and calculation, and understand and cognitively manipulate three-dimensional models.

Reasoning abilities must be sophisticated enough to analyze and synthesize information from a wide variety of sources. It is expected that the candidate is able to learn effectively through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to: classroom instruction, small group discussion, individual study of materials, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology.

Communication Skills:

The candidate must be able to ask questions, to receive answers perceptively, to record information about patients and to educate patients. S/he must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with patients, their families, and with other members of the health care team. This must include spoken communications and non-verbal communications such as interpretation of facial expressions, affects, and body language. Mastery of both written and spoken English is required.

Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Motor Competencies:

A candidate must possess sufficient visual, auditory, tactile and motor abilities to allow him/her to gather data from written reference material, from oral presentations, by observing demonstrations and experiments, by studying various types of medical illustrations, by observing a patient and his/her environment, by observing clinical procedures performed by others, by reading digital or analog representations of physiologic phenomena, and by performing a basic physical examination of a patient.

Participation in hands-on laboratory activities is an essential component of PA education. The candidate must participate in physical examination and skills lab activities in both the roles of ‘PA’ and ‘patient,’ that will necessitate the exposure of and physical contact with various parts of their body and the bodies of other students in order to learn and demonstrate curricular-related knowledge. This touch should always be professional in nature and should follow the same principles of respect and sensitive practice applicable to patient care.  Appropriate touch includes explaining any intended physical contact and obtaining consent prior to proceeding with any examination.