What Sets Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Apart
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What Sets Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Apart

Student and faculty wrapping a patients handFor more than 15 years, Salus University’s Physician Assistant (PA) Studies department has offered a well-regarded program with excellent outcomes. As illustrated by the program’s exemplary Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination Exam (PANCE) results, from 2017-2022, 279 out of 280 students passed on the first attempt (six-year overall first-time pass rate of 99.6%) and 100% ultimately passed the PANCE.

The Salus PA program has a patient-centered curriculum with an emphasis on holism and primary care that sets it apart from other programs in the region.

According to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2023 Jobs Report, the PA profession ranks as number two in the best healthcare jobs and number four in the 100 best overall jobs. According to the report, PA offers a median salary of $121,530. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) 2022 Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs Annual Report noted the average income for PAs increased by 8.7% between 2018-2022.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 27.6 percent employment growth for physician assistants through 2031. In that period, the agency estimated the development of 38,400 jobs. 

What will happen with the Salus PA program upon the Drexel merger?

Salus University is delighted about the forthcoming merger with Drexel University. This collaboration is particularly significant for the PA program, as it is the only program at Salus that overlaps with Drexel's offerings. 

The accreditation bodies will determine the final form of the two overlapping programs, but they will initially operate separately. As such, the two programs will function independently of each other. Following the merger, the Salus University PA program plans to retain its current faculty and staff and will continue to deliver its curriculum from the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus. The state-of-the-art facilities and resources that have been instrumental in shaping the success of the program will continue to be accessible to Salus students. The Salus administration anticipates that the merger with Drexel University will likely allow for some shared resources, amplifying opportunities available to the Salus PA program, but that each program will remain responsible for meeting the didactic and clinical needs of its current and future students.

What sets Salus’s PA program apart from other programs in the area?

Unlike many other PA programs, the Salus PA program includes patient-care experiences embedded throughout the first year of study. This is a signature component of the Salus PA experience and one that helps attract strong students who are dedicated to patient care. Program director Rachel Ditoro, EdD, MSPAS, PA-C, and her faculty have developed a patient-centered curriculum with a primary care focus supported by a holistic approach. Students also spend time learning in the University’s Standardized Patient Simulation Lab. 

PA student and faculty wrapping a patient's ankleWhat is the Standardized Patient Simulation Lab?

Salus recently built a state-of-the-art Standardized Patient Simulation Lab due to the rise in the use of Simulated Patients (SP). SPs are now deployed extensively in medical education to allow students to practice and improve their clinical and conversational skills in preparation for actual patient encounters. They are also useful to train students to learn professional conduct in potentially sensitive situations. 

What happens in a Standardized Patient Simulation Lab?

The Salus Standardized Patient Simulation Lab contains collaborative learning environments, eight patient examination rooms and one hospital room to simulate a real-world clinical environment. It utilizes trained standardized patients to role-play a variety of healthcare scenarios. This allows students to directly experience the process of obtaining a patient history, practicing physical examination techniques and communicating effectively with “patients” in a controlled setting. As patient evaluation skills are gained and sharpened, students build confidence in their abilities, which they later apply in clinical practice settings. Student experiences in the Patient Simulation Lab are video-recorded for feedback and review purposes. 

What unique aspects does the Salus PA program offer?

Since the program’s inception in 2007, Salus PA students have studied in the University’s onsite cadaver laboratory. Unlike some other programs, the University’s PA curriculum includes hands-on cadaver dissection in the first year of study, under the supervision of professor Michael Speirs. This is becoming increasingly rare for numerous reasons, but program officials found that their students benefit enormously from the opportunity to work with actual human cadavers rather than relying on virtual dissection programs which, while useful, do very little to prepare students to skillfully handle human tissue. Hands-on dissection is the best and surest way to ensure PA students understand how these structures interact.

PA students volunteering at MANNAHow would you say the Physician Assistant program helps advance the University’s mission?

Service is central to Salus University’s mission. As part of the PA program’s Integrative Medicine and Nutrition course, students learn the medical benefits of therapeutic nutrition through a service learning experience at Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) in Philadelphia. MANNA prepares and delivers medically modified meals and provides nutrition counseling to neighbors battling life-threatening illnesses. Students, faculty and staff volunteer in the preparation, packaging and delivery of healthy meals to area residents with chronic illness. Students gain an understanding of health promotion through nutrition and the benefits of contributing as part of a team in service to others. One hundred percent of students from the Class of 2022 noted they appreciated the opportunity to participate in a community service event, and the majority of the program’s principal faculty agreed that the University offered ample opportunities for community outreach.


*All accreditation matters pending approval by the respective accrediting bodies

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