Jun 18, 2024  
2022-2023 University Catalog 
2022-2023 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physician Assistant Studies (MS)

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Physician Assistant Studies (MS): Program Overview

The Physician Assistant program is designed to provide students with an outstanding education in preparation for a career as a PA with a foundation for leadership and service.  Graduates are granted a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.

Our 30-month curriculum is innovative and unique, with enhanced rotations that maximize clinical training and patient care experiences. Rush University Medical Center offers extensive resources and settings to provide students with an excellent educational experience.

  • The 12-month didactic phase uses lecture, case-based discussions, and skills labs training to prepare students for clinical rotations.
  • Our unique, 18-month clinical phase prepares students to practice as generalists, while providing a one-of-a-kind immersion in a specific area of clinical practice. Students complete 12 months of core rotations, and then advance to 6 months of advanced rotations.
    • Current areas of advanced clinical training include cardiothoracic surgery, orthopedics, vascular surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, behavioral health, internal medicine, primary care, pulmonary and critical care medicine, interventional radiology, urology, neurosurgery, geriatrics, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.


The Rush University PA program mission is to educate advanced health care providers to practice evidence-based medicine with competence, professionalism and compassion driven by academic excellence and service to diverse communities.


The Rush University PA program strives to be a national leader in educating exceptionally qualified PAs to transform clinical and professional practice.


The following are the goals of the Rush University PA Studies program:

  • Prepare PAs to practice interprofessional, patient-centered care
  • Promote leadership, service, and advocacy to the profession
  • Provide enhanced training opportunities to students in various areas of clinical practice
  • Prepare PAs who use evidence-based methods to plan, develop and deliver high quality, cost-effective health care
  • Promote an environment of diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural humility

Physician Assistant Studies (MS): Admission Requirements

Admission to the PA program is extremely competitive. The program bases its admissions decisions on candidates’ general and science course GPA, type and quality of prior health care experience, experience working with or shadowing PAs, leadership and community service activities, professionalism, communication skills, letters of reference, and personal statement quality. The following are specific admissions requirements to keep in mind.

  1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university prior to matriculation into the program.
  2. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for both total and science GPA.   The higher a candidate’s GPA, the more competitive the application. GPAs of 3.3 or higher in both total and science GPA are competitive. GPAs of 3.5 or higher for both total and science GPA are highly competitive.
  3. Documented hands-on, direct patient contact experience in a health care setting, accrued within seven years of application submission.  A minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient contact experience is required at the time of application submission. Having more than 1,500 hours is competitive, and more than 2,500 hours is highly competitive. Experience collaborating with PAs, nurse practitioners, or physicians is highly competitive.
  4. A completed application submitted to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). The following items will be submitted directly to CASPA: 
  • Official transcripts from every U.S. college or university attended. For coursework completed outside the United States, candidates need to submit an international course evaluation from either World Education Services (WES, https://www.wes.org/) or Education Credential Evaluators (EEC, https://www.ece.org/)
  • Letters of Reference. We require three letters of reference. Refer to CASPA for instructions on completing the online evaluation. We recommend references be from educators, PAs, MDs, or other health care professionals that candidates have worked with who can speak to medical skill, academic performance potential, commitment to service, and leadership skills. At least one reference should be from a physician, PA or other health professionals, and one should be from a college or university instructor.  Personal references from family and friends are not competitive for admission to the program.
  • Personal statement     
  1. The following prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of C or higher.  Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Microbiology and Biochemistry must be completed within seven years of planned program start date. See the section “Required Prerequisites” below for more information.

      •    Human Anatomy
      •    Human Physiology
      •    Microbiology_2
      •    Biochemistry
      •    Psychology/Behavioral Science
      •    Statistics

  6. While not a requirement for admission, leadership and/or community service are highly valued and will contribute to the competitiveness of a candidate’s application.

  1. Final admissions decisions are based on an interview with members of the PA program faculty and other university faculty and leaders. Candidates who are invited for an admissions interview must complete a supplemental application and pay a $40 supplementary fee. Information regarding this supplement is provided with an interview invitation.  
  2. All applicants must meet the minimum requirements to perform the essential functions of a PA. See the Technical Standards on the following page. 
  3. Admission is contingent upon successful completion of a health assessment, criminal background check and drug screening processes before matriculation. Information regarding this requirement is discussed during interviews.
  4. Applicants with coursework or a bachelor’s degree conferred outside of the United States must submit a course equivalence evaluation by either World Education Services (WES) or Education Credentials Evaluators (ECE)
  5. TOEFL scores-if English is not a candidate’s native language, they are required to take the TOEFL before applying to the program. Please review the Rush College of Health Sciences policy on the TOEFL, at: rushu.rush.edu/college-health-sciences/about-college/information-applicants/toefl-international-applicants, for more information.

The program admits one class per year. Attendance in the program is on a full-time basis only.

The program does not offer advanced standing, accept transfer credits, or waive any prerequisite or other admission requirement, regardless of a candidate’s previous professional or academic experience.

The PA program admits students into the class on a rolling basis, which means we accept candidates to the class at each interview session. Under a rolling admissions process, it is possible to fill all seats in the class before the admission cycle closes. It is to the applicant’s advantage to fulfill and submit all application materials as early as possible.

Due to the extremely competitive nature of the application process, meeting posted admission criteria to the program does not guarantee an interview offer for the program.

Additional Factors for Admissions Consideration

Rush University and the PA program are committed to creating a class environment that mirrors our diverse community and that supports access and inclusion among our students. While all candidates must meet posted minimum admissions criteria, candidates with any of the following factors indicated on their CASPA application are given priority consideration towards an admissions interview and are reviewed on a case-by-case basis:

  • Military veterans
  • Persons from an underrepresented minority group in the health care sciences
  • Persons from economically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • First person to attend a higher education training program
  • Recommended graduates from the Rush Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program

Program Application

Completing An Application to the Rush University PA Program:

The application cycle is open from April 29 to October 1 of each year. 

Applications must be submitted online via CASPA at caspa.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login 

CASPA application requires:

  • Submission of official transcripts for all college coursework completed
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • Payment of an application fee as outlined by CASPA

Required Prerequisites

The following courses must be completed prior to matriculation into the program:

  • Human anatomy and human physiology or a two-course sequence combined human anatomy and physiology course
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology (with lab preferred but not required)
  • Psychology or equivalent course work in the behavioral sciences
  • Statistics

Candidates must have four of the six prerequisite courses completed at the time of application to be eligible for review. If a candidate has outstanding prerequisites, they must be completed with a grade of C or higher before the start of the program.         

The following prerequisite courses must be completed within seven years of matriculation:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology

Candidates must complete all course work with a minimum final grade of a C or higher by the program start date. Acceptance offers to candidates with outstanding prerequisites are conditional, pending successfully completing all course requirements. If a candidate does not complete all prerequisite courses before the program start date, they forfeit their seat in the class. 


Physician Assistant Studies (MS): Technical Standards

The following are the universal technical standards that apply to all clinical training students in the Rush University College of Health Sciences at Rush University. These standards apply to all students enrolled in the PA Program.

Rush University is committed to diversity and to attracting and educating students who will make the population of health care professionals representative of the national population.

Our core values - I CARE (innovation, collaboration, accountability, respect and excellence) - translate into our work with all students, including those with disabilities. Rush actively collaborates with students to develop innovative ways to ensure accessibility and creates a respectful, accountable culture through our confidential and specialized disability support. Rush is committed to excellence in accessibility; we encourage students with disabilities to disclose and seek accommodations. 

Acquire Information

  • Acquire information from demonstrations and experiences in courses, such as lecture, group and physical demonstrations
  • Acquire information from written documents and computer systems (e.g., literature searches and data retrieval)
  • Identify information presented in accessible images from paper, slides, videos with audio description and transparencies
  • Recognize and assess patient changes in mood, activity, cognition, verbal and non-verbal communication

Use and Interpret

  • Use and interpret information from assessment techniques/maneuvers 
  • Use and interpret information related to physiologic phenomena generated from diagnostic tools


  • Possess psychomotor skills necessary to provide or assist in holistic PA care and perform or assist with procedures and treatments
  • Practice in a safe manner and appropriately provide PA care and assessment in emergencies and life support procedures and perform universal precautions against contamination


  • Communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and families
  • Communicate effectively with faculty, preceptors and all members of the health care team during practicum and other learning experiences
  • Accurately elicit information, including a medical history and other information to adequately and effectively evaluate a population’s, client’s or patient’s condition

Intellectual Ability

  • Measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize data related to diagnosis and treatment of patients and populations
  • Exercise proper judgment and complete responsibilities in a timely and accurate manner according to the PA role
  • Synthesize information, problem-solve and think critically to judge the most appropriate theory, assessment or treatment strategy


  • Maintain mature, sensitive, effective relationships with clients/patients, families, students, faculty, staff, preceptors and other professionals under all circumstances
  • Exercise skills of diplomacy to advocate for patients in need
  • Possess emotional stability to function under stress and adapt to rapidly changing environments inherent to the classroom and practice settings


  • Demonstration of concern for others, integrity, accountability, interest and motivation are necessary personal qualities
  • Demonstrate intent and desire to follow the Rush University and Physician Assistant code of ethics

The technical standards delineated above must be met with or without accommodation. Students who, after review of the technical standards, determine they require accommodation to fully engage in the program, should contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services at (www.rushu.rush.edu/office-student-accessibility -services) to confidentially discuss their accommodations needs. Given the clinical nature of our programs, time may be needed to implement accommodations. Accommodations are never retroactive; therefore, timely requests are essential and encouraged.

Physician Assistant Studies (MS): Curriculum

Phase I: Coursework

Phase III: Advanced Clinical Rotation Courses

Program Total: 132 Credit Hours

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