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State of Evidence-Based Practice in Physician Assistant Education

White, Dawn, M., DHSc, PA-C; Stephens, Phillip, DHSc, PA-C

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education: March 2018 - Volume 29 - Issue 1 - p 12–18
doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000183
Research Article

Purpose Evidence-based practice (EBP) involves using the best evidence available to guide patient care. The use of EBP improves patient outcomes and the quality of care delivered. Studies have investigated how EBP is taught in other health professions but not in physician assistant (PA) programs. The purpose of this study was to explore how PA programs teach this subject matter.

Methods After permission was obtained, a survey was adapted from a similar study completed in medical schools. Requests were emailed to 186 accredited PA programs with available contact information. These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The text responses were reviewed and summarized to describe how EBP was taught in the programs surveyed.

Results Eighty-four responses were received from the 186 PA programs contacted with the survey request, giving a 45.2% return. Approximately 95% of respondents reported having formal EBP training in their curriculum. Respondents reported formal EBP training through a variety of educational activities, with time spent on these activities ranging from 4 hours to 550 hours. Barriers to implementation of an EBP curriculum were reported by 27% of respondents, with the most common barrier being lack of time.

Conclusions Most PA programs that responded have formal EBP training in the curriculum. There is little standardization regarding the methods used and time spent in these activities. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant may be able to assist in overcoming the reported barriers and improving standardization by implementing a specific EBP accreditation standard.

Dawn M. White, DHSc, PA-C, is a clinical assistant professor in the Physician Assistant Program at Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York.

Phillip Stephens, DHSc, PA-C, is the associate practitioner site director of Emergency Medical Associates at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Lumberton, North Carolina.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Dawn M. White, DHSc, PA-C, Clarkson University, 8 Clarkson Avenue, Box 5882, Potsdam, NY 13699. Telephone: 315-268-7942; Email:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2018 Physician Assistant Education Association
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