Requirements and Technical Standards

The candidate for successful completion of the Physician Assistant Program must be able to perform the following skills with or without accommodation.


  • Observe materials presented in the learning environment including audiovisual presentations in lectures and laboratories, microscopic examination of microorganisms, gross organs and tissues in normal and pathologic states.
  • Observe patients, both at a distance and closely. This ability requires functional vision, hearing and somatic sensation.


  • Elicit information from patients, including the ability to speak, hear and observe patients and perceive nonverbal communications. Describe changes in mood, activity and posture.
  • Communicate with patients and their families and the health care team through oral, written, and electronic forms.
  • Convey sensitivity and respect in all communications with patients and their families as well as all members of the health care team.


  • Elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other components of the physical examination.
  • Execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Such skills require coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and sensation.
  • Manipulate equipment and instruments to perform basic laboratory tests and medical procedures required to attain curricular goals (e.g. needles, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, tongue blades, intravenous equipment, gynecologic speculum, and scalpel).

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

  • Apply knowledge and reasoning to solve problems as outlined by the curriculum. 
  • Comprehend three dimensional relationships and the spatial relationships of structures.
  • Collect, organize, prioritize, analyze and assimilate large amounts of technically detailed and complex information within a limited time frame. This information will be presented in a variety of educational settings, including lectures, small group discussions, and individual clinical settings. The candidate should be able to analyze, integrate, and apply this information appropriately for problem solving and decision-making.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

  • Possess the ability to use his/her intellectual ability, exercise good judgment, and complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients.
  • Develop relationships with patients and colleagues.
  • Tolerate physical, mental, and emotional stress in training and patient care. 
  • Be adaptable, flexible and able to function in the face of uncertainty within the healthcare team. He/she must have a high level of compassion for others, motivation to serve, integrity, and a consciousness of social values. Possess sufficient interpersonal skills to interact positively with people from all levels of society, all ethnic backgrounds, and all belief systems.
  • Accept criticism and respond by appropriate modification of behavior.
  • Form a compassionate relationship with his/her patients while maintaining appropriate boundaries for a professional relationship.

The faculty of the Duke University Physician Assistant Program recognizes its responsibility to present candidates for the PA degree who have the knowledge, attitudes and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situation and to render a broad spectrum of patient care.  The Admissions Committee is responsible for adhering to these technical standards during the selection of Physician Assistant students. 

If you have any questions about this document or whether you meet the standards as described above, please contact the Duke Physician Assistant Program Admissions Office.