Physician Assistant Profession Six Core Competencies

September 14, 2012 in PA Educators, PA Students, Prospective PAs


There are six core competencies that the Physician Assistant profession has adopted: medical knowledge, patient care, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems based care. Here’s the problem… since the beginning of formalized medical education the vast bulk of emphasis has been on the first two, medical knowledge and patient care. This is a heavy train that has been moving for years. Trying to put the brakes on that structure is very challenging!

Yes, of course we need to ensure we are adequately addressing medical knowledge and patient care. However, tell me the importance of competence in either if the student is unable to connect with patients (interpersonal and communication skills). What’s the point if the student lacks professionalism and loses his or her license? They matter not if the student is not taught to be flexible and willing to reflect upon and change practice habits during this era of seemingly continuous breakthrough and constant change (practice-based learning and improvement). And who cares how much they know if they cannot understand how to work within, and help their patients navigate through, a complex health care system (systems based care)? As Physician Assistant educators, we must think deeply about how to adequately train on ALL SIX of the core competencies. For they have never been more important! And they will only grow more important as our health care system evolves.

1 response to Physician Assistant Profession Six Core Competencies

  1. Very well stated, particularly your sixth point. Knowledge of systems based care needs more attention.

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