School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Leldon W. Nichols


Physician Assistant, Competency, Performance, Outcomes, Pre-admission Patient Contact Experience, Non-cognitive Admission Variables


Education | Medicine and Health Sciences


The demand for physician assistants (PAs) is predicted to rise because of the growing shortage of physicians. PA educational programs are tasked with producing graduates who are skilled within six domains of competency: 1) medical knowledge, 2) professionalism, 3) interpersonal and communication skills, 4) patient care, 5) practice-based learning and improvement, and 6) systems-based practice. The Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam only assesses two of the six competencies: medical knowledge and professionalism. Without much time in a curriculum to teach the ‘softer skills’ like communication and interpersonal skills, many PA programs require pre-admission patient contact experience in order to at least expose students to some of these competencies prior to matriculation. The purpose of this non-experimental, quantitative, regression study was to determine if the non-cognitive variable of pre-admission patient contact hours is predictive of subsequent PA student performance as defined by their score on preceptor evaluations for a supervised clinical practice experience (SCPE). The sample consisted of 140 participants who were graduates of a single PA program from 2015 to 2019. The instrumentation included pre-admission patient contact hours and scores on preceptor evaluations of PA students for SCPEs in Behavioral Medicine, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Medicine, Women’s Medicine, and General Surgery. This investigation used seven bivariate linear regression analyses to determine that the quantity of an incoming PA program applicant’s pre-admission patient contact hours is not predictive of their subsequent performance on SCPEs. However, further investigation is warranted for the Women’s Medicine setting.