James Madison University

Frequently Asked Questions

Prerequisites

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  • Must prerequisite courses be completed prior to submitting an application?

    No.  All six prerequisite courses must be completed by the time an applicant would begin the Program in the Fall semester (late August), not when the application is due. If an applicant has not completed the prerequisite courses by time of application, s/he simply completes the portion of the application that states how and when s/he plans to complete the given prerequisite/s (this portion is called the "supplemental application").  The applicant's complete application will be  reviewed and a spot in the cohort may be offered on the condition that the candidate successfully completes the prerequisite courses prior to beginning the PA Program.

  • Must prerequisite courses be completed at JMU?

    No. Prerequisite courses can be completed at other accredited colleges, universities, and community colleges in the U.S. or at foreign schools recognized by JMU.  The course(s) must assign a final grade and must ultimately produce a transcript.

  • Must all 1,000 hours of direct patient care be completed prior to submitting an application?

    No. The minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience must be completed by the time an applicant would begin the Program in the Fall semester (late August), not when the application is due.  If an applicant has not completed the minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient care by the time of application, s/he simply completes the portion of the application that states how and when s/he plans to complete the needed hours (this portion is called the "supplemental application").  The applicant's complete application will be reviewed and a spot in the cohort may be offered on the condition that the candidate successfully completes the minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient care prior to beginning the PA Program.

  • My university offered human anatomy and human physiology as combined courses - Anatomy and Physiology I and Anatomy and Physiology II. Will this meet the prerequisite requirement or must I have a separate course in anatomy and a separate course in physiology?

    The prerequisite can be met either by taking a one semester course in anatomy and a one semester course in physiology, OR by taking both semesters of a combined Anatomy & Physiology I and Anatomy and Physiology II sequence.
    If a candidate's coursework is older than seven years, but his/her occupation has required him/her to remain current on information in a prerequisite field, the candidate can ask the PA program Admissions Committee for an exception to the seven-year time requirement. The candidate should submit a letter of explanation requesting the exception along with supporting documentation. The Admissions Committee will decide whether or not to grant the exception.

  • Is there a time limit on how recent the prerequisites were completed?

    Yes. The following courses MUST be completed within  seven years of matriculation into the Program:

    • Human Physiology - one semester
    • Human Anatomy - one semester
    • Biochemistry - one semester (Organic Chemistry is not a substitute for this course)
    • Genetics - one semester
    • Microbiology – one semester

    Within any number of years before matriculation into the Program:

    • Medical Terminology

    If a candidate's coursework is older than seven years, but his/her occupation has required him/her to remain current on information in a prerequisite field, the candidate can ask the PA program Admissions Committee for an exception to the seven-year time requirement. The Admissions Committee will decide whether or not to grant the exception.  Exceptions are rarely granted.

  • Can on-line courses meet the prerequisite requirements?

    Provided the on-line courses were taken from an accredited college or university, academic credit was awarded and a transcript showing the course/s and grade can be forwarded as with any other course. We do not recommend taking anatomy through an online course, because we favor a hands-on, not a virtual laboratory component to the anatomy prerequisite.

  • Please explain the Health care experience requirement. What can I do to gain the direct-patient, health care experience? Can it be volunteer experience? Does shadowing a PA count? Do I have to do only one type of activity for all the hours of experience? My experience is in the mental health area. Does that count?

    The healthcare experience requirement can be met in several ways. The hours may come from one experience or a combination of experiences and may be voluntary or paid work. Examples of health care professions that typically require direct patient contact include nurse, EMT or paramedic, corpsman, patient care technician, nurse's aide, surgical assistant, clinic/medical assistant respiratory technologist, radiology technologist, and  mental health worker. Other professions and experiences, such as scribe, clinical research assistant, and medical technologist may also qualify if hands-on patient care is performed routinely.

    Healthcare related professions that generally do not count toward this requirement because they do not involve hands-on patient contact include transporter, CPR or ACLS instructor, lifeguard, non-clinical research assistant, candy striper, unit clerk, and others. Although desirable for other reasons, PA shadowing and student/intern experience does not count toward the required 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your healthcare experience.

    Some candidates are applying to PA as a career change. Typically they have been working in some type of direct-contact health care job and have many hours of experience. Other candidates are seeking PA as a first career in health care. They often seek health care experience specifically to meet the requirement and they do not have education in a prior health care profession. So, they are more likely to seek activities that require brief education such as Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or a position with on the job training. These candidates typically have fewer hours. It is important to note the wide range of hours. It indicates that candidates from both groups are selected. Health care experience is not evaluated merely on the number of accumulated hours, but also the level of responsibility required.

    Below is a partial, but representative, list of the types of activities that students have engaged in prior to entry into the PA program. These are only examples, many other types of positions may also qualify. If you have any questions regarding the acceptability of your healthcare experience, contact the PA program.

    Volunteer activities include these settings.

    • Rescue Squad
    • Physician Office
    • Emergency Room
    • Nursing Home
    • Free Clinic
    • Mental Health Crisis Counselor

    Shadowing PAs The program does not count time spent shadowing PAs as meeting the direct patient-contact health care experience requirement, because the activity is generally, purely observational. The program does encourage candidates to shadow PAs, if it will help the candidate determine whether or not PA is the appropriate career choice for the candidate.

The Application Process

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  • Do I have to apply to the JMU Graduate School and to the PA Program as separate applications?

    Yes. You must apply to the Graduate School in order to be admitted to the university and to the graduate college. The Institution Code for GRE scores for JMU is 5392. To apply to the graduate college go to The Graduate School

    Additionally, you must apply to the PA program in order to be admitted specifically to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. This is accomplished by applying through CASPA.

  • Do I have to submit letters of recommendation and original transcripts with both the CASPA application and the JMU Graduate School application?

    No. You must submit the requested letters of recommendation and original transcripts as part of the CASPA application. You do not need to also submit letters of recommendation and original transcripts with the Graduate School application. If you are offered admission to the PA program, you will need to send original transcripts to the JMU Graduate School prior to the start of classes.

  • Who should write my letters of recommendation?

    Three letters are required (through the CAPSA application).  Letters are best from prior supervisors/employers, university professors, or professionals who have observed you in a patient care environment.  Letters of recommendation from friends or family members are highly discouraged.

  • Must I apply to the program through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)?

    Yes. All candidates must apply through CASPA (in addition to the JMU Graduate School).

  • What is the minimum GPA that is required?

    We have a recommended overall GPA of 3.0, however most students who are admitted have an overall GPA higher than this.  Nevertheless, the Admissions Committee does take into consideration the applicant who has shown continuous improvement over  time.

  • What are the characteristics of the applicants who have actually been selected for the program?

    The Program does not have a model candidate. PAs work in a wide variety of jobs within the medical field. The role of the PA program is to educate people who can fill that wide variety of jobs. So the program selects candidates with wide ranges of abilities, backgrounds and interests who will combine their PA education with those varied interests and fill a broad range of PA positions.

    Below is a statistical profile of candidates admitted to the MPAS program between 2012 and 2015. We expect some year-to-year variation in these ranges and means. They are offered here to help candidates gauge how competitive they may be with other candidates. Where provided, the ranges are more significant than the means.

    Student Characteristics

     

    Year Enrolled – Year Graduated

    2013-2015 2014-2016 2015-2017 2016-2018

    Number enrolled

    30 32 30 30

    Average prior college credit hours

    162.4 141.6 138.8 150.4

    Average Overall GPA upon admission

    3.49 3.41 3.58 3.51

    Average Science GPA upon admissions

    3.5 3.34 3.53 3.44

    Highest prior degree held

    Doctorate 0%
    Masters 13%
    Bachelor 87%
    Doctorate 3%
    Masters 9% Bachelor 88%
    Doctorate 0%
    Masters 7% Bachelor 93%
    Doctorate 0%
    Masters 20%
    Bachelors 80%

    Hours of health care experience (mean):
    Range

    3,948
    1,000 – 24,000
    3,283
    1,000 – 26,000
    4,037
    1,000 – 23,519
    4,222
    1,000 – 24,000

    Gender

    Female 70%
    Male 30%
    Female 84%
    Male 16%
    Female 93%
    Male 7%
    Female 70%
    Male 30%

    Age (mean years)
    Range

    28.0
    22-47
    24.7
    22-41
    24.2
    21-34
    26.9
    23-44

    Percentage of Students with JMU course work

    17% 21% 17% 30%

    Percent students from Virginia

    67% 50% 60% 70%

    Interpreting the Table: 

    This profile was assembled for reporting characteristics of enrolled students. It is not a list of selection or admission criteria. Not all the characteristics listed are admission considerations or criteria.

    • With GPAs it is important to consider the table gives an average not a range. Also students' performance is seldom uniform throughout their academic work. So, the average may not reflect that their more recent academic work may be better than their average. In such situations the Admissions Committee may be more influenced by the recent work.
    • All students who complete the PA curriculum receive a Master of Physician Assistant degree.
    • JMU connection includes students who have taken courses at JMU at anytime prior to acceptance into the PA program.
    • Health Care Experience: The health care experience requirement must involve work directly helping patients with their healthcare problems. The patients might have physical or mental health problems. The experience can be attained in many ways. The experience could be either a paid or volunteer position. It might be accumulated through a single type of experience or by combining different types of experience that collectively fulfill the required hours.

    Some candidates are applying to PA as a career change. Typically they have been working in some type of direct-contact health care job and have many hours of experience. Other candidates are seeking PA as a first career in health care. They often seek health care experience specifically to meet the requirement and they do not have education in a prior health care profession. So, they are more likely to seek activities that require brief education such as Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or a position with on the job training. These candidates typically have fewer hours. It is important to note the wide range of hours. It indicates that candidates from both groups are selected. Health care experience is not evaluated merely on the number of accumulated hours.

    Below is a partial, but representative, list of the types of activities that students have engaged in prior to entry into the PA program. These are only examples, many other types of positions also qualify. If a candidate is engaged in an activity and is not sure whether it would qualify, he should inquire of the PA advisor at the program.

    Credentialed, employment-type activities

    • EMT or Paramedic
    • Athletic Trainer
    • Certified Nursing Aid
    • Cardiology Technician
    • Medical Technologist
    • Registered Nurse
    • Licensed Practical Nurse
    • Veterinarian
    • Surgical Technologist
    • Exercise Physiologist
    • Rehabilitation tech
    • Crisis Counselor
    • Clinical Research Tech.
    • Mental Health Case Mgr

    Volunteer activities include these settings.

    • Rescue Squad
    • Physician Office
    • Emergency Room
    • Nursing Home
    • Free Clinic
    • Mental Health Crisis Counselor

    Shadowing PAs The program does not count time spent shadowing PAs as meeting the direct patient-contact health care experience requirement, because the activity is generally, purely observational. The program does encourage candidates to shadow PAs, if it will help the candidate determine whether or not PA is the appropriate career choice for the candidate.

  • Must I take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

    Yes, it is a requirement for admission. The Institution Code for reporting GRE scores to JMU is 5392.  The GRE is only waived if an applicant has a previously earned Master's degree.

  • What is the minimum GRE score needed?

    There is no minimum score that is necessary.  The Admissions Committee will consider the GRE scores along with the other admissions requirements and render decisions based upon the applicant's entire application and/or interview.

  • Is any special consideration given to veterans of the United States military?

    Yes. Any United States veteran who completes the admissions process is guaranteed an on-campus interview.

  • How do I find out my admission status?

    To find out your admission status, go to MyMadison (http://mymadison.jmu.edu) and log in using your JMU d-ID provided by The JMU Graduate School.  Contact The JMU Graduate Schoolhttp://mymadison.jmu.edu if you are unable to log into MyMadison.

  • When do I need to submit official transcripts?

    Official transcripts must be submitted to CASPA at the time of application and to The Graduate School at JMU upon acceptance.  Unofficial transcripts may be sent to the PA program to document prerequisite course work completed after your CASPA application has been submitted.

  • Are scholarships or graduate assistantships available?  Is financial aid available?

    The JMU Graduate School typically provides funding to the PA Program annually, to use towards five individual scholarships.  These scholarships are awarded within the first month of the Program and are academic based, not needs based.  It cannot be expected or guaranteed that the JMU Graduate School will provide this funding on annual basis.  Scholarships from outside organizations including the PA Foundation are announced to students as they become available.  Due to the pace and rigor of the PA Program curriculum, graduate assistantships are not available.
    Most students apply for financial aid through the JMU Financial Aid Office.

  • If my aspirations are to attend a graduate physician assistant program and ultimately to become a physician assistant, what undergraduate major should I choose?

    There is no specific major that is required - one must simply have at least a Bachelor's degree as a prerequisite to admission.  In most cases however, a basic science background (biology, chemistry) is helpful as far as knowing that you can succeed in these types of courses.  Majoring in health science as an undergraduate has also become more popular in recent years.

The PA Program at JMU

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  • How long is the Program and how is the curriculum arranged?

    The PA Program is 28-months in total length.  The didactic phase of the Program is 16-months long and consist mostly of on-campus, classroom courses with a few direct-patient experiences. The clinical phase of the Program is  12-months in total length and is comprised of 40 weeks of supervised clinical experiences, interspersed with some days of on-campus classroom work every eight weeks. For the clinical phase, students are assigned to work with physicians and other clinicians in a variety of medical specialties. These supervised clinical rotations take place mostly in Virginia with a few being  in immediately adjacent states. Students must be able to travel and relocate frequently during the clinical year.

  • Who teaches in the program?

    Classroom instructors come from several sources: four PAs and one physician among full-time Program faculty, other university faculty from the biology department, many guest lecturers (physicians, PAs, NPs, pharmacists, etc)  from the community and the region. Preceptors for supervised clinical rotations are  primarily physicians, with some PA's and NP's as well.

  • How have JMU graduates performed on the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE)?

    The table below shows the pass rates for the most recent eight cohorts for which complete scores are available.

    Year Pass rate for first-time takers
    2008 100%
    2009 91%
    2010 96%
    2011 96%
    2012 78%
    2013 96%
    2014 100%
    2015 100%

    The aggregate pass rate for the entire 13-years of the Program, for first-time test takers is 93%.

  • What is the job market for PAs?

    Demand for medical care will increase because of a growing and aging US population.  In addition, several chronic diseases are on the rise (diabetes, heart disease, obesity) and will therefore drive the need for physician assistants to provide both preventive care and treatment of those affected.

    The role of physician assistants is expected to increase as states continue to allow PAs to perform more procedures and as third party reimbursement companies expand their coverage of physician assistant services.  Physician assistants are also expected to play a greater role in routine medical care because they are more cost effective than physicians.  As more physicians retire or choose to enter specialty areas of medicine, more physician assistants are expected to fill the role of primary care provider.  Lastly, the number of individuals who have access to primary care services will increase as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

    According to the "Occupational Outlook Handbook" published by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 38% from 2012 – 2022.  This is "much faster than the average for all occupations".  Therefore good job prospects are expected, especially for physician assistants working in primary care and for those working in medically underserved and rural areas of the country.

    Source:  http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-6

  • Where are the Program's supervised clinical rotation sites and how are students matched with sites?

    The PA Program requires each student to complete 40 weeks of supervised clinical experiences. These include eight weeks each in internal medicine and family medicine, four weeks each in obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine and general surgery, and a four-week rotation period in which the student may elect the area of medicine. These rotations take place mostly in Virginia with some in immediately adjacent states. Students must be able to travel and relocate frequently during the clinical year. Students do not choose the sites or the order in which the rotations occur. The faculty assigns students to rotation sites and also determines the students' schedules. Several months before students begin the clinical phase of the Program, they provide information to the Director of Clinical Education about personal factors that they would like considered when the Director of Clinical Education makes the clinical rotation assignments. There is no guarantee that the PA Program will be able to accommodate the factors suggested by the students, but the Program does attempt to reduce the inconvenience associated with clinical rotation placement assignments. Students are not required to find or provide sites or preceptors for any of their supervised clinical rotations.

  • May I work while in the PA Program?

    While the Program does not completely prohibit one from employment; it is strongly advised against.  Employment during the Program may lead to poor academic performance due to the rigor and fast pace of the curriculum.  No concessions or time-off will be granted to students to maintain employment of any kind.

  • Are there any service opportunities while in the Program?

    Yes, service opportunities are plentiful and typically fall under the umbrella of the Physician Assistant Student Society.  This service oriented volunteerism helps the Program meet its goal of community and civic engagement.

  • Does the Program allow transfer of graduate level coursework from other institutions?

    The PA Program is a closed cohort model and the curriculum is arranged in a lock-step sequence.  Therefore, we do not accept graduate transfer credits.  Often these courses however, may be utilized to meet our prerequisite requirements.

  • Does the Program allow students to waive certain courses or have advanced standing?

    No courses within the curriculum will be waived for any reason and the Program does not provide advanced standing.

  • Is Trujillo, Peru the only location where the elective international rotation allowed?

    Yes, at this point in time Peru is the only location available. Other sites may develop in the future, but there are no immediate plans.

  • Why did the PA Program decide upon Trujillo, Peru for the elective international rotation site?

    There are several reasons:

    1. Plane travel to South America is more affordable than travel to Europe, Africa, or elsewhere.
    2. The company we have partnered with, Medical Electives, is fantastic!  They are based in Trujillo.
    3. Although a full day of travel is necessary to get to Trujillo, there is only a 1-hour time difference from Harrisonburg, VA.  Therefore students will not have any jet lag upon arrival in Peru.