The Southwest’s PA Programs Without a Direct Patient Care Hours Requirement

Are you thinking about becoming a physician assistant? If so, as you begin to look at your options for education, you’ll notice that a large number of PA programs require direct patient care experience as an admissions requirement. In some cases, schools may ask for thousands of hours of experience precluding many aspiring PAs from submitting an application. If your time working in healthcare has been limited, check out these physician assistant programs in the southwest region that do not require direct patient care experience to apply. 

1. Arizona School of Health Sciences

Mesa, AZ

While there is not a set minimum number of hours needed in order to be considered, applicants to Arizona School of Health Sciences’ PA program are required and encouraged to have a sufficient number of direct patient care experience in order to be able to recognize the physical and psychological demands of dealing with patients, as well as to be able to appreciate the challenges of being a healthcare professional. As part of it’s program’s mission to encourage graduates to work with the medically underserved, the program has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers to base student clinical experiences in areas of need.  

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2. Midwestern University- Glendale

Glendale, AZ

In 2015, Midwestern University received over 2,100 applications to its PA program and accepted only 90 hopefuls. The university does not require applicants to have any set number of hours of direct patient care but does ask that evidence of motivation for and commitment to health care as demonstrated by previous work, volunteer or other life experiences are provided on the application.

3. University of Colorado

Aurora, CO

The University of Colorado’s PA program has gained national recognition for its curriculum in primary care medicine, providing a comprehensive education with additional training in pediatrics and emphasis on the need for service to disadvantaged, at risk and medically underserved populations. Medical experiences are not required for admission, though they do strengthen your application and should be included.

4. Idaho State University

Pocatello, Meridian and Caldwell, ID

Idaho State University offers its PA program simultaneously at all three of its campuses, with an annual cumulative class size of 72 students. Healthcare experience is not required for admission into the program, though it is strongly preferred. Applicants who show a desire to practice primary care in Idaho, particularly among the medically underserved are also preferential.

5. University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

Clinical experiences are required in order to be considered for admission into UNM’s PA program, though there is not a set minimum of hours needed. In this highly competitive program with a class size of only seventeen, it is recommended to have at least one year of direct patient care experience, but a minimum of six months is still seen as competitive. Applicants are also encouraged to gain community experiences by participating in other activities in addition.

6. Touro University Nevada

Henderson, NV

Located just minutes from Las Vegas, Touro University does not have a set minimum of required direct patient care hours but does require that an applicant’s health care experiences reflect a proper motivation for and commitment to the profession. The school recognizes that each student is different and the number of hours needed in order to receive valuable information about the field is based on the individual.   

7. University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

Oklahoma City, OK

The University of Oklahoma in OKC does not require direct patient care experience for entry and rather values candidates with life experiences that have been broadened through contact with patients in any setting such as hospitals, outpatient clinics and nursing homes. Other forms of experience that are seen as competitive and valuable include volunteering with charitable organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross. The University of Oklahoma accepts 36 students into the program each year.

8. The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine

Tulsa, OK

The OU-Tulsa PA program represents a joint effort between the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine and the University of Tulsa to provide one of the strongest primary care PA programs in the country. The university offers a unique educational experience for PAs who are committed to primary care and the underserved in Oklahoma. Direct patient care experiences are not required of applicants but are strongly recommended.

9. Baylor College of Medicine

Houston, TX

Located in the largest medical center in the world, Baylor College of Medicine is one of the nation’s leading health science centers. It’s PA program is ranked 13th among the country’s top physician assistant training programs. Applicants to the program are not required to have prior healthcare experience.

10. Interservice PA Program

Fort Sam Houston, TX

The Army’s Interservice PA Program offers the unique opportunity to practice medicine everywhere from high-tech clinics to field hospitals. Graduates typically service within one of the many Army combat or combat support battalions and are responsible for the total health care of soldiers assigned to the unit as well as their families. Once Army PAs have completed their initial obligation, they may qualify for fully funded postgraduate training programs in areas such as orthopedics, emergency medicine, intensivist, or occupational medicine. The Army also offers special training programs in courses designed to expand military education while complementing civilian training. Direct patient care hours are not a requirement for entry into the program; however applicants must have at least 80 hours of shadowing with a PA.

11. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Midland, TX

Located between Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas Tech does not require direct patient care hours for entry into its highly competitive PA program. However, many other factors are considered and acceptance is offered to candidates that appear to be the most highly qualified in meeting the mission and goals of the PA program. Successful candidates have previous achievement and academic potential, as well as show motivation and understanding of the profession.

12. University of North Texas Health Sciences Center

Fort Worth, TX

Direct patient care and healthcare related experiences are not required for admission into UNT; however they are one of the many factors evaluated to help the school examine the qualities that future students can bring to the program and are considered a beneficial attribute in the selection process. Students who do not have healthcare experience should not bank on having a strong academic performance as their gateway into the program. Other considerable factors include community service, honors, achievement and awards, extracurricular activities and life experiences.

13. University of Texas Medical Branch

Galveston, TX

UTMB does not have a minimum requirement for direct patient care experience or shadowing, though it is highly recommended in order to be a more competitive applicant. The school does not make any recommendation for a number of hours that candidates should seek to attain and rather looks at a candidate’s application as a whole, seeing competitive candidates are those who are the most well-rounded. The program’s PA students train at UTMB’s own hospitals and clinics and students have the unique opportunity to rotate through VA Outpatient Clinics, Shriner’s Burn Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, and other renowned facilities, as well as international locations.

14. University of Texas- Pan American

Edinburg, TX

Though not required for admission, UT Pan American strongly recommends that applicants have direct patient care experience, with the most successful applicants having more than 500 hours. The PA program at UTPA is recognized as the only PA program in Texas that is not located or affiliated with a medical center, giving students a unique opportunity to train in the most optimal, one-to-one settings.

15. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Dallas, TX

In the last nine years, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has had a 100% pass rate on the PANCE on the first try. Applicants to UT Southwestern are not required to have healthcare experience but are strongly recommended to demonstrate evidence of direct patient care prior to submitting their application. In 2017, the school will admit 54 students into its PA program.

Where will you go for your physician assistant degree?


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