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Relationship Between Physician Assistant Program Length and Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination Pass Rates

Colletti, Thomas P. DHSc, MPAS, PA-C; Salisbury, Helen PhD; Hertelendy, Attila J. PhD, MHSM, MS, NREMT-P; Tseng, Tina PhD, MSPH

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education: March 2016 - Volume 27 - Issue 1 - p 3–6
doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000058
Research Article

Purpose This study was conducted to examine the relationship between physician assistant (PA) educational program length and PA programs' 5-year average Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) first-time pass rates.

Methods This was a retrospective correlational study that analyzed previously collected data from a nonprobability purposive sample of accredited PA program Web sites. Master's level PA programs (n = 108) in the United States with published average PANCE scores for 5 consecutive classes were included. Provisional and probationary programs were excluded (n = 4). Study data were not normally distributed per the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test, P = .00.

Results There was no relationship between program length and PANCE pass rates, ρ (108) = −0.04, P = .68. Further analyses examining a possible relationship between program phase length (didactic and clinical) and PANCE pass rates also demonstrated no differences (ρ [107] = −0.05, P = .60 and ρ [107] = 0.02, P = .80, respectively).

Conclusion The results of this study suggest that shorter length PA programs perform similarly to longer programs in preparing students to pass the PANCE. In light of rapid expansion of PA educational programs, educators may want to consider these findings when planning the length of study for new and established programs.

Thomas P. Colletti, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, is an associate professor and PA program director at Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Lillington, North Carolina.

Helen Salisbury, PhD, is an assistant professor at A.T. Still University, Doctor of Health Sciences Program, Mesa, Arizona.

Attila J. Hertelendy, PhD, MHSM, MS, NREMT-P, is an adjunct professor at A.T. Still University, Doctor of Health Sciences Program, Mesa, Arizona.

Tina Tseng, PhD, MSPH, is a project manager at The Larvol Group, LLC, San Francisco, California.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Thomas P. Colletti, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, Chair & Director, Physician Assistant Program, Campbell University, Leon Levine Hall of Medical Science, 4350 US 421S, Lillington, NC 27546, Telephone: (910) 893-1231; Email:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2016 Physician Assistant Education Association
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