Program Profile

Addressing the Shortage of Physician Assistants in Medicine Clerkship Sites

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Program Evaluation

At the end of rotations continuously through the year, PA students electronically complete a site evaluation from the Boston University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. The evaluation consists of 14 questions: 6 about site quality and 8 about instruction quality. The questions are answered on a 5-point Likert scale. Also included are 2 open-ended response questions that ask what they liked about the rotation and what they felt could be improved. Results are anonymous, de-identified and blinded both to the program as well as the clerkship site. Results are aggregated and provided to program sites annually. Responses are converted to a dichotomous variable, where any good or excellent response (4 or 5) is considered positive and any neutral or below (3, 2, 1) is considered a nonpositive response.


The clerkship site has been operational since June 22, 2015. There have been 59 students who participated in the rotation. A different scale in these evaluations was used between June 22, 2015, and September 13, 2015. Therefore, 7 responses were excluded from the analysis, leaving 52 usable evaluations. The responses were analyzed both in total (for the CLC as well as other IM rotation sites) and by individual clerkship year to look for any trends over time: September 14, 2015, through April 24, 2016; April 25, 2016, through April 28, 2017; and May 1, 2017, through March 1, 2018 (Table).

Site evaluations showed high satisfaction regarding the quality of the physical environment as well as the learning environment. Students endorsed the PAC unit having resources and physical space for them, such as a desk and computer, opportunity for participation in patient care, and parking (100%; n = 52). Site evaluations revealed high satisfaction with the quality of teaching and faculty encouragement and support of their learning (100%; n = 52). The evaluations revealed that bedside teaching was strong (94%; n = 49). The students reported high satisfaction with the volume of patients provided (92%; n = 48) as well as the diversity of diagnoses (92%; n = 48).

There were fewer positive responses in the first 2 years of the rotation with regard to formal lectures (50% and 67%; 7/14 and 16/24, respectively). In the third year of the rotation, students had a much higher satisfaction rate (93%; 13/14). This increased satisfaction was associated with the development and incorporation of the Interprofessional Curriculum in Transitional Care in 2017.


Access to high-quality PA student clerkship sites has become a pressing issue in recent years because of increased competition for sites and a shortage of willing and well-trained preceptors. There has been marked growth in schools and enrollment across all medical professions. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the PA (ARC-PA) reported that the total number of accredited entry-level PA programs in 2018 was 246, with 58 new accredited programs projected by 2022.12 The Joint Report of the 2013 Multi-Discipline Clerkship/Clinical Training Site Survey reported a 66% increase in first-year enrollment in PA programs from 2002 to 2012.5 Programs must implement alternative strategies to attract clinical sites (eg, academic appointments, increased clinical resources to training sites) or face continued challenges with recruiting training sites for their students. Postacute care may be a natural extension to expand the footprint for clinical sites for these programs, augmenting acute inpatient and outpatient rotations. This implementation would increase the pool of clinical training sites and preceptors.


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