PA Policies and Procedures

All Program & University policies apply to all students, faculty, and staff regardless of location.

All of the information below and more can be found in the Westfield State University Physician Assistant Program Student Didactic Handbook

Scheduling

The program will consist of full-time days and occasional nights and weekends. A module schedule will be issued 1 week prior to the start of each semester for student planning purposes. Content experts from the medical community are utilized for lecturing to facilitate student learning which may require flexibility in scheduling.

Work Policy

Because of the intensity of the program, students are strongly discouraged from attempting to work. Students should bear in mind that any work undertaken outside the program is not covered by the student malpractice insurance required during the program. Course work and clinical experiences will not be arranged to accommodate any outside work.

Physician Assistant Faculty as Providers

The Physician Assistant Faculty will not function or substitute as a medical provider for physician assistant students.

Use of Students as Staff

The PA Program should be an educational experience for the student. Per program policy, at no time should a student work for the program, substitute or function as instructional faculty or administrative staff in the didactic or clinical setting.

Should the circumstance arise, the student should contact the program immediately for resolution.

Survey/Assessment Expectations

The Westfield State University PA Program is engaged to pursue excellence; therefore, the program will collect and analyze data for continuous self-assessment. The following surveys/assessments will be conducted:

  • Instructor Assessment Survey
  • Professionalism evaluation
  • Course evaluations
  • Rotation logs
  • Clinical Site evaluations
  • Program evaluations
  • Exit surveys
  • PANCE scores
  • Graduate surveys
  • Employer surveys
  • Faculty surveys
Classroom and Laboratory Policies

PA program curriculum is intensive and taught an accelerated pace. Therefore, appropriate classroom and laboratory behavior is necessary to ensure a proper learning environment.

  • Each student is required to purchase malpractice insurance each year in which they are enrolled in the PA program. The insurance is linked to tuition payment. Therefore, non-payment of tuition will result in lack of malpractice insurance, which will prevent students from engaging in history taking and physician examination exercises with classmates and patient encounters in the didactic year or clinical rotations.
  • Students are expected to secure their own transportation (reliable car) to class, laboratory, on or off campus patient encounters, simulation exercises and clinical sites.
  • Some of the clinical rotation experiences in the clinical year may require travel to sites outside the greater local area. Students are responsible for all costs associated with these clinical rotations, including travel, parking, and living expenses.   
Progression Requirements

Students in the PA program must achieve a grade of B (>79.5%) in PAS didactic and clinical courses to remain in good academic standing. Students who receive less than a B in one course may be offered the opportunity for course remediation. If course remediation is unsuccessful, deceleration may be offered. A student may only remediate one course per year. Each student will have only one opportunity to decelerate.

Due to course scheduling, remediation of a course may result in delay in the program.  In addition, because the courses offered each semester are interrelated, students who decelerate are required to attend all courses in the semester that the failed course is repeated, attend all classes, and pass all evaluation requirements. Failure to achieve a B or better on a second attempt of a course following deceleration will result in recommendation of dismissal from the program. All coursework must be completed within five (5) years of matriculation.

Course Remediation Policy

All student performance will be reviewed each by semester by the Promotions & Remediation Committee. For students who have demonstrated academic deficiency (<79.5%) in a program course, they may be offered a remediation process. Students are only eligible for remediation in one course per year (one didactic course and one clinical course), as long as the remainder of the semester grades are a B (>79.5%) and the student is in good professional standing. Failure of a second course per didactic year will result in deceleration.

Remediation will be offered if the student demonstrated behavior, attitude, and ethics consistent with professional demeanor expected of a physician assistant student as determined by the Promotions and Remediation Committee.

The course coordinator will refer a remediation plan to the Promotions & Remediation Committee. If remediation is approved, students will be assigned an academic remediation plan and assessment by the Director of Didactic Education. The plan outlines the way in which a student will be expected to address any performance issues.

Remediation will include repeating some portion of the module, course or clerkship and reexamination. In all cases, the process of remediation shall be at the discretion of the course coordinator, and the Director of Didactic or Clinical Education.

Course assessment (EOM exam and OSCE) learning interventions are required if a student fails to pass the assessment regardless of course final grade. The learning intervention plan is designed by the course coordinator and referred to the Director of Didactic Education for discussion with the Promotions and Remediation Committee. A learning intervention does not change the original grade on the assessment.

Deceleration Policy

Under extraordinary circumstances students may be allowed additional time to complete the program.  Due to the curricular thread, students will decelerate into the following year’s cohort. This request must be made to the program director and will be approved by the Promotions and Remediation Committee. All PA Program course work must be completed within 5 years of matriculation.

In order to be considered for deceleration, the following conditions must exist:

  • A grade of at least "B" (>79.5%) in all other program courses.
  • Demonstrated behavior, attitude, and ethics consistent with professional demeanor expected of a physician assistant student.
  • Deceleration will be offered only once per student.
  • Failure to achieve a 3.0 and a grade of B (>79.5%) or better on the 2nd attempt will result in recommendation for dismissal.
Program Dismissal

Students that do not meet the program expectations for deceleration will be recommended for dismissal to the Program Director.

  • Students fail to achieve a course grade of B (>79.5%) or better after deceleration.
  • Students fail to achieve 3.0 GPA after deceleration.
  • Lack of resolution of documented professional behavior issues.
  • Failure of 2 clinical courses or failure to pass repeated clinical clerkship.
  • Academic Dishonesty.

Click here for more information regarding the Graduate Academic Dismissal Policy

Program Withdrawal

A student wishing to withdraw voluntarily from the University must confer first with the PA Program Director. Further details about the University refund policy and procedures are found with the University catalog here.

Leave of Absence

  • In the event a leave of absence is needed, students are urged to submit a request to the Program Director, and Registrar as soon as possible.
  • In order to obtain a leave of absence, students must be in good academic standing.
  • Leave of absence is granted for up to one academic year.
  • Upon return, students may require additional documentation, exams or medical clearance as determined by the type of leave of absence.
  • Please refer to the Westfield State University Graduate Catalog for further information.
Westfield State University Policy on Academic Integrity

“Academic Honesty, a necessary foundation of a learning community is expected of all students. Violations are unacceptable and are subject to academic penalties including failure of a course. A record of the violation is submitted to Academic Affairs; repeated violations may result in suspension or dismissal from the college. Violations of academic honesty include cheating on examinations, plagiarism, and submission of the same paper for credit in two or more courses.” Academic Honesty, (WSU Bulletin)

Students in the graduate program are expected to have high standards of integrity. Any graduate student who violates academic honesty through activity such as cheating or plagiarizing on examinations, papers, assignments or within a research setting is subject to dismissal from the program. Graduate students are required to follow departmental processes for field placements (e.g. prepracticum, practicum, internships). Failure to do so may be grounds for removal of students from the graduate program. Cases involving failure to follow process shall be referred to the Dean for adjudication.

Grade Appeals and Grievance Policy

Questions or concerns relating directly to a college course should first be raised with the course instructor. Program directors and department chairs are available to consult on appeals at the program level. If you have questions or concerns about the academic policies and regulations of the Graduate School, you should direct them in writing to the Dean. A formal appeal form may be found HERE.

Student Harassment Policies and Procedure

Harassment Policy

Westfield State University does not tolerate any forms of harassment.

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome verbal, non-verbal and/or physical behavior of a sexual nature that has the effect of interfering with student employment, academic or other status, of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. It is a form of sex discrimination that was made illegal by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 as amended, and under Chapters 151B and 151C of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Any member of the College community who believes she/he has been a victim of  harassment may initiate informal or formal complaint procedures with the University's Non-Discrimination Office. Full text of the current Sexual Harassment Policy is available in the Graduate and Continuing Education Office, the Non-Discrimination OfficeDiversity and Affirmative Action Plan, and within the Student Handbook. Additional information on the full University Bullying and Harassment Policy can be found here. Further information or advice may be obtained by contacting the Dean of the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education.

All complaints of student mistreatment should be reported to the Program Director or the Dean of Students Office for assistance.

State and Federal Remedies

In addition to the above, if you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you may file a formal complaint with either or both of the government agencies set forth below. Using our complaint process does not prohibit you from filing a complaint with these agencies. Each of the agencies has a short time period from alleged offense for filing a claim (EEOC-180 days; MCAD-6 months).

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)

One Congress Street, 10th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Tel. 617.565.3200

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”)

Boston Office: One Ashburton Place
Room 601
Boston, MA 02108

Springfield Office:
436 Dwight Street
Room 220
Springfield, MA 01103

Health / Policies/ Compliance
Professional Liability Coverage

A professional liability insurance policy providing adequate malpractice coverage for each student must be in effect throughout their educational experience and must be sustained uninterrupted throughout the clinical year.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all practicing physician assistants and physicians to have minimum liability coverage of $1M/$3M.  Consistent with this requirement, all affiliated clerkship training sites require a minimum of $1M/$3M professional liability insurance coverage for each student.

The University, through payment of tuition, provides professional liability coverage of $1,000,000.00 per occurrence and $3,000,000.00 in the aggregate, ($1M/$3M), for claims made against students during their clinical clerkships.  This policy covers all program-affiliated student clerkship activities throughout the clinical year.  This policy DOES NOT cover a student for clinical or other activities, which are not directly associated with the PA Program or affiliated clerkship sites. 

The student should inquire with legal counsel if they should acquire additional malpractice insurance. 

Health Insurance

Massachusetts law requires that all students have health insurance. Westfield State University complies with this requirement for all enrolled students. Westfield State University makes available a student health insurance plan to all enrolled students designed to provide protection against unexpected expenses or an accident or illness. Students with proof of comparable coverage may be exempt from the University health insurance policy. All Physician Assistant Program faculty, program director and medical director may not participate in the health care of any PA student. Although the faculty and medical director work clinically, they will not get involved in a PA student care unless it is an emergency situation with no other recourse or clinician. For additional information regarding the student health insurance plan contact the office of student services.

HIPAA Compliance

Prior to entrance into the clinical year, all students are trained in the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) which outlines medical privacy regulations.  Students will not be permitted to begin the clinical year without HIPAA training and documentation. Students must demonstrate continuous compliance with these regulations throughout the clinical year. Failure to do so may result in suspension or dismissal from the program.

Immunization Requirements

All immunizations are based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) immunization guidelines for healthcare providers. The following immunizations are required for matriculation to the PA Program. The student must provide documentation to the PA Program that he/she is in compliance with the following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines:

  • All childhood immunizations must be current.
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that all full-time undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of year of birth, as well as all part-time and full-time graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in health science programs, have two doses of MMR vaccine. Laboratory proof of immunity is acceptable if immunization dates are unavailable.
  • A completed Hepatitis B series of vaccinations and documentation of a protective titer (Hepatitis B Surface Antibody) are required. The series can be a 3-dose series of Recombivax HB or Engerix-B (dose #1 now, #2 in 1 month, #3 approximately 5 months after #2) or a 2-dose series of Heplisav-B, with the doses separated by at least 4 weeks. Get an anti-HBs serologic test 1-2 months after the final dose.
  • Varicella (Chicken Pox) immunity is necessary. If you do not have chickenpox (varicella) documented, if you haven’t had varicella vaccine, or if you don’t have an up-to-date blood test that shows you are immune to varicella (i.e. no serologic evidence of immunity or prior vaccination) get 2 doses of varicella vaccine, 4 weeks apart.
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis (Tdap or Dtap) immunization may be as many as five and must be within the last 10 years. Pregnant Health Care Workers need to get a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy.
  • Annual influenza vaccine prior to the flu season.
  • TWO negative Tuberculosis (TB) skin tests taken two weeks apart or an IGRA-test (QuantiFERON Gold test) is required prior to the start of the student’s didactic year and annually thereafter. The student must provide evidence and documentation to the Director of Clinical Education. It is the student’s responsibility to have the test repeated annually as long as patient contact continues. If the student has a Positive Test, the student must submit a report of a negative chest X-ray before the university certifies that immunizations are complete.
  • Communicable Tuberculosis: Students with a positive X-ray for communicable tuberculosis may not attend classes until such time as a physician or the Department of Public Health documents that they are free of the disease in a communicable form. Documentation may be through submission of the report of a large X-ray film of the chest, taken not more than ninety days prior thereto, and such other laboratory and clinical examination as may be required for the exclusion in a communicable form. That documentation must be provided to the Program’s Director of Clinical Education in order to show that the student is able to return to clinical practice.
  • Covid 19 vaccination required by the University and most clinical sites. University Covid Policies and Procedures.

Note: Immunizations are subject to change per CDC guidelines

In addition to the above requirements, we require an influenza vaccine annually prior to the flu season. 

In addition, be advised that some clerkship training sites may have immunization requirements beyond the general requirements noted above.  It will be the student’s responsibility to meet any additional immunization requirements of specific sites to which he/she is assigned.

Westfield State University Physician Assistant Immunization Verification Form

Clinical Sites

Westfield State University Physician Assistant students are not required to provide or solicit clinical sites. Clinical site development is not required of students.  The Program maintains an active inventory of clerkship sites that are vetted for their clinical experience.  However, students interested in establishing an out-of-network clerkship may elect to do so within the constraints listed below. 

The Director of Clinical Education has the authority to approve or deny any out of network request. All out of network clinical sites will need to be equivalent in experiential learning to currently approved in-network clerkships.  Out-of-network clerkships may not be observational only experiences. All WSU PA program documentation must be completed by the proposed clinical site including affiliation agreement for all clinics and/or facilities, preceptor profile including CV and licenses, and site evaluation. Students will be required to submit an Out-of-Network Clerkship Request form to the Director of Clinical Education.

Infection Control Policy

The following policy refers specifically to Westfield State University. Other policies may exist at clinical sites and will be distributed at those sites. Please refer to the Infection Control Policy in Appendix F in the Student Handbook for additional information.

Exposure Determination

A.  Westfield State University Physician Assistant Program faculty and students in the course of their teaching or learning may be involved in exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials through skin, eye, mucus membrane or parenteral contact.

Exposure does not include incidental exposures that may take place at the school and that are neither reasonably nor routinely expected to incur in the normal school duties.

The term ‘other bodily fluids’ and ‘other potentially infectious materials’ refer to semen, vaginal secretions, cerebral spinal fluid, plural fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, and any other body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, as well as any fixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead).

Student Wellness

The Health Center is located in Scanlon Hall. Graduate students are not eligible to use the Health Center on campus, but the Center will assist/direct students to appropriate medical facilities. The Counseling Center is located in Lammers Hall and will refer the students to appropriate resources that are available.

The PA Faculty will assist PA students in obtaining timely access to mental health care by contacting the counseling center, Dean of Students Office, or the University STAT team.

Technical Standards for Admission and Graduation

The technical standards for admission and graduation of the Westfield State University Physician Assistant Studies Program are stated below and contained within the Student Handbook linked to at the top of the page. Westfield State University and the Physician Assistant Program are committed to meeting the special needs of students within established legal and institutional guidelines. However, the integrity of the medical curriculum and the required mental and physical capabilities to fulfill the obligation of that education must be sustained.

Observation

Students must have appropriate visual and auditory capacity to observe and participate in lectures and demonstrations in the classroom, laboratory and clinical setting. Students must be able to observe the patient accurately at a distance and close at hand while observing verbal and nonverbal signs. Sensory skills to perform a physical examination are required which include functional vision, hearing, smell and tactile sensation. These skills are required to properly observe the patient's condition and to perform adequate and appropriate evaluation. These evaluations include but are not limited to inspection, auscultation, palpation, performance of special physical examination techniques and use of diagnostic tests and instruments.

Communication

Students must be able to effectively relate to patients, conveying a sense of compassion and empathy. They must be able to clearly communicate in academic and health care settings with patients, family members and other healthcare professionals to obtain and convey information regarding the patient's status. Students must be able to read and write English effectively in order to fulfill academic requirements and maintain accurate and legal clinical records on patient care. Students must be able to read and efficiently, accurately and legibly record in legal documents such as patient records. Students must be able to elicit an appropriate history and physical exam from patients and concisely and clearly communicate with the medical team.

Sensory and Motor Coordination and Function

Students are required to possess sensory and motor skills sufficient to independently elicit information from patients using palpation, auscultation, percussion and other manually based diagnostic maneuvers.  Students should be able to conduct laboratory tests and carry out diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Students should possess and execute appropriate motor movement to provide basic medical care in a general medicine environment and coordinate fine and gross muscular movements to treat patients in emergency situations. Students must be able to move freely about patient care environments and must be able to move between settings such as clinics, classroom buildings and hospitals. Physical stamina sufficient to complete the rigorous course of didactic and clinical study is required. This includes, but is not limited to, long periods of sitting, standing or moving which are required in a variety of classroom, laboratory and clinical experiences.

Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrated and Quantitative Abilities

Students should possess the following abilities: an aptitude for rapid problem solving, the capability to assess and interpret medical information independently, evaluate physical examinations, and formulate a logical diagnosis and effective medical treatment plan. Students must possess good judgment in patient assessment, the ability to incorporate new information, understand comprehensive three-dimensional relationships and curricular threads, and retain and recall pertinent information in a timely fashion. When appropriate, students must be able to identify and communicate the limits of their knowledge to others. Students must be able to read and understand the medical literature.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

Students must possess the physical and emotional health required for the application of his/her intellectual ability and the employment of sound judgment in an appropriate and prompt manner. Students must be able to function effectively under physically taxing workload and in times of physical and mental stress. Students must display compassion, sensitivity, honesty and concern for others while maintaining professional integrity at all times. Students are required to adapt to changing environments, have good interpersonal skills, flexibility and be self-motivated. Students must have the ability to accept constructive criticism and handle challenging interpersonal relationships during training. Students must be able to develop mature sensitive and effective relationships with colleagues, patient and other members of the healthcare profession.

Program Competencies

EXPECTATIONS OF ALL PA PROGRAM GRADUATES

  • Elicit and appropriately document a complete and focused history for patients across the lifespan and in all medical settings, taking into account cultural awareness and social determinants.
  • Perform and document a physical exam for patients across the lifespan appropriate to the patient visit that includes correlating abnormal physical examination findings to a given disease process.
  • Based on the patient history and physical, order and interpret routine diagnostic studies such as common radiologic studies, routine laboratory tests and electrocardiographic studies to determine or confirm a patient’s diagnosis.
  • Generate a problem list and differential diagnosis list utilizing critical thinking and analysis of history and physical exam findings, diagnostics and laboratory interpretations.
  • Distinguish between conditions that constitute a medical emergency and the appropriate response. 
  • Synthesize how to provide life support, perform emergency evaluation/care and initiate therapeutic procedures in life-threatening events with a physician and other health professionals.
  • Analyze indications for hospital admission.
  • Critically, clear and thoroughly draft documentation appropriate to the clinical setting such as progress notes, hospital admission orders, progress notes, discharge notes, and procedure notes, pre, intra and post-operative notes.
  • Effectively perform the oral presentation of the medical history, physical exam, differential diagnosis, and treatment plan to the interprofessional team and obtain a consult or referral.
  • Synthesize how to implement and monitor patient treatment plans including medications and other options for the treatment of medical/surgical patients. 
  • Interpret how to monitor patients for compliance and response to therapy as well as modifying treatment plans as needed while questioning patients about adverse reactions to medications.
  • Practice cost-effective health care and resource allocation that does not compromise patient quality of care.
  • Differentiate how to perform the different diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures associated with the management of medical and minor surgical conditions to include but not limited to the administration of medication, NG tube insertion, injections, suturing, wound management, incision and drainage of superficial infections, cast and splint application and simple fracture follow-up.
  • Analyze appropriate patient follow-up to respond to patient needs that go beyond their medical conditions and include social, emotional, spiritual, economic and environmental factors.
  • Distinguish between the types of patient referrals needed for community resources, health facilities and agencies.
  • Formulate patient education regarding physical and mental health, including proper diet, disease prevention, normal growth and development, family planning, lifestyle risks, situational adjustment reactions and other health care matters.
  • Differentiate between the delivery of services to patients requiring continuing care in homes, nursing homes and extended care facilities, including reviewing and monitoring treatment and therapy plans.
  • Demonstrate behaviors that reflect a commitment to professionalism and a responsible attitude toward their patients and profession.
  • Possess a thorough understanding of medical ethics and the legal aspects of health care.
  • Practice evidence-based medicine which incorporates life-long learning and current clinical guidelines to improve patient care.
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