An Examination of the Relationship Between Physician Assistant Program Characteristics and Performance on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination
AbstractOne of the most highly regarded indicators of a physician assistant (PA) training program’s quality is the record of success of its graduates in passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). Similar to other professional examinations such as the bar examination and the certified public accountant examination, the PANCE can provoke a great deal of anxiety for both new graduates and program administrators. Successful completion of the PANCE is a prerequisite for licensure in all 50 states and represents a final hurdle for students seeking to begin their new healthcare career.
To promote transparency and to protect consumers, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) requires that all PA programs publicly display their program’s PANCE pass rate data for the past 5 years. The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) requires that PA programs complete annual reports related to curriculum, administration, and personnel, making a wide variety of statistical data available for public review. Information presented includes admissions requirements, program duration, faculty-student ratios, the proportion of faculty having a doctoral degree, and the length of time a program has been in operation. Unfortunately, there have been relatively few studies that have attempted to determine whether any of these factors predict successful outcomes for PA programs.
To date, most studies that have examined predictors of success on the PANCE are either very dated, are limited to single institutions, or have explored only individual program characteristics such as student GPA or admissions criteria. There has not been a recent large-scale, systematic study which has attempted to determine whether any relationships can be drawn between readily available public data and PANCE performance. This study examined data from all PA programs with 5 or more years of PANCE data to determine whether a relationship exists between required clinical experience, student to faculty ratios, duration of the program curriculum, faculty credentials, and 5-year PANCE average pass rates