Reimagining Physician Assistant Education

J Physician Assist Educ. 2020 Sep;31(3):126-132. doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000320.


The physician assistant (PA) profession has successfully flourished for over 50 years, demand for graduates remains strong, and there is a wealth of research on the quality of care that PA graduates provide. Nevertheless, health care and education are constantly changing, and we must change with them. We must continually scan the horizon and consider how best to adapt to current issues like the clinical sites crisis, as well as evolutions in technology, pedagogy, and in our students themselves. The Physician Assistant Education Association Presidents Commission, a group of past presidents, sought to stimulate a conversation on "reimagining PA education" through the lens of advances in our knowledge of the neuroscience of learning and changes in technology, including simulation, and a broader focus on innovation and "thinking outside the box." Through interviews with PA faculty and leaders, we provide some examples of areas of innovation in education, especially on the possibilities presented by a more flexible approach to innovation from the accreditation body than many PA faculty might perceive. One initial conclusion is that PA educators should focus more on helping students to "think like clinicians" from the start of their education. This paper is primarily intended to stimulate dialog, and we encourage all PA educators to form-and more importantly, share-their own thoughts and questions, through the PAEA professional learning communities and Digital Learning Hub (

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation / standards
  • Clinical Clerkship / organization & administration
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Educational Technology / organization & administration
  • Faculty / standards
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Physician Assistants / education*
  • Simulation Training / organization & administration