Technical Standards

For students in the Physician Assistant Program - Case Western Reserve University (05/01/2021)

Technical Standards:

The Physician Assistant Master of Science degree signifies that the holder is prepared for entry into the practice of medicine.  It follows that the graduate must have the knowledge, skills and abilities to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care.  It is essential for good patient care to require minimum standards for the education of the physician assistant.  Students in the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program are selected on the basis of their academic, personal and extracurricular dimensions.  In addition, students must have the intellectual, physical and emotional capacities to meet the requirements of the School’s curriculum and of a successful medical career.

The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program will consider for admission any applicant who meets its academic and nonacademic criteria and who demonstrates the ability to perform the skills listed in this document, with or without reasonable accommodations, consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  Candidates and current students who have questions regarding the technical standards, or who believe they may need to request reasonable accommodation(s) in order to meet the standards are encouraged to contact Disability Resources.

Disability Resources

Location:  Sears Building, Room 402

Phone:  216-368-5230


For more information follow this link

Physician assistant students are reviewed individually and on a case-by-case basis, using the factors listed below.  In accordance with University policy and as delineated by Federal and Ohio law, the University does not discriminate in admissions, educational programs or employment against any individual on the basis of that individual’s disability and will make good faith efforts at providing reasonable accommodation as required.

Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant students must possess the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze and synthesize data.  They must have functional use of the senses of vision, hearing, equilibrium and taste.  Their exteroceptor (touch, pain and temperature) and proprioceptor (position, pressure, movement, stereognosis and vibratory) senses must be sufficiently intact to enable them to carry out all the activities required to complete the activities described below.  PA students must have sufficient motor function capabilities to meet the demands of the PA program and the demands of the total patient care.

Students in the Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant Program must possess ability, aptitude and skills in the following areas: observation, communication, motor function, intellectual-conceptual-integrative, behavioral, social and physical.  The PA student must be able to prove adequate and appropriate immunization and titer status.  The PA student must be able to meet the requirements and worker attributes of a Physician Assistant as defined by the U.S. Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) – Physician Assistant and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Handbook – Physician Assistant (updated 2020). 



The PA student must be able to observe and actively participate in demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences, visual presentations in lectures and laboratories, laboratory diagnostic procedures and microbiologic cultures, microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues/fluids in normal and pathologic states in the same manner as required in clinical practice. The PA student must be able to observe a patient accurately and completely at a distance and at a close range (within a few feet of the observer). Observation necessitates the functional use of the sense of vision and somatic sensation and is enhanced by a sense of smell.


The PA student must be able to communicate (includes not only speech but also reading and writing) effectively, sensitively, and efficiently with patients, their families, health care professionals, colleagues, faculty and staff.  They must be able to listen to and understand information and ideas as well as express and exchange ideas.  The PA student must be able to acquire the patient’s medical history in a timely manner, interpret non-verbal information, and establish a therapeutic rapport with patients.  They are also required to record information accurately and clearly; and communicate effectively and efficiently in English with other health care professionals.

As defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the PA student must be able to meet the following general standards.  Reading: Read literature, books, scientific and technical journals, abstracts, financial reports, and legal documents.  Writing: write editorials, journals, speeches, manuals and critiques.  Speaking: conversant in the theory, principles and methods of effective and persuasive speaking, voice and diction, phonetics and discussion and debate (DOT Language Development Level 05).

Motor Function:

The PA student must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers.  The PA student must possess sufficient motor function to be able to document and record information elicited from patients.  The PA student must be able to carry out basic laboratory tests (urinalysis, wet mount, gram stain, occult blood card test, rapid culture tests, etc.) carry out diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (venipuncture, arterial blood gas sampling, injections, placement of catheters, splinting, casting, IVs and nasogastric tube placement), and read electrocardiograms and diagnostic images (i.e., x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans etc.).  The PA student must have motor function including arm-hand steadiness sufficient to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment for patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of a physician assistant are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medications, the application of pressure to arrest bleeding, the opening of obstructed airways, suturing of wounds, the application of casts and splints and the performance of obstetrical maneuvers.  Such skills require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.

Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities:

These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis.  Problem identification and problem solving, the critical skills demanded of PA’s require all these abilities.  The PA student must possess sufficient intellectual capacity to gather and identify essential information.  They must demonstrate the ability to combine evaluation and reasoning with information and data to make decisions and solve problems.  They must also be able to tell when something is wrong or likely to go wrong. 

The PA student must also demonstrate inductive reasoning.  They must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.  This includes the ability to read and interpret charts and graphs and the ability to use a microscope.  The PA student must possess sufficient intellectual capacity and maturity to fulfill the curricular requirements of the various basic medical science and clinical courses.  They must demonstrate the ability to collect, synthesize and analyze complex medical, laboratory data, and verbal information to reach logical conclusions.  The PA student must demonstrate the ability to read and comprehend technical materials, medical and/or laboratory reports and medical text and journals to define complex problems and prepare solutions.  The PA student must be able to use scientific methods to solve problems and apply knowledge of biomedical principles to the process of information gathering.  They must possess critical thinking skills that allow them to use logic and analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.  They must be able to identify and integrate findings pertinent to the process of problem identification in order to formulate and implement adequate and appropriate diagnostic and/or therapeutic plans. 

As defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the PA student must be able to deal with a system of real numbers; linear, quadratic, rational, exponential, logarithmic, angle and circular functions and inverse functions related algebraic solution of equations and inequalities; limits and continuity; and probability and statistical inference.  Deductive axiomatic geometry, plane, solid, and rectangular coordinates.  Practical application of fractions, percentages, ratios and proportion, measurement, logarithms, practical algebra, geometric construction and essentials of trigonometry (DOT Mathematical Development Level 04).

Behavioral and Social Attributes:

The PA student must possess the emotional and mental health required for full utilization of his/her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients.  The PA student must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads, effectively carry out responsibilities and to function effectively under stress.  They must possess sufficient emotional stability to withstand stress, uncertainties and changing circumstances that characterize the dependent practice of medicine.  They must possess social perceptiveness and be aware of other’s reactions and understand why they react the way they do.  The PA student must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility and to learn to function in the face of uncertainty inherent in the clinical problems of many patients.  The PA student must possess the physical and mental capacity to meet all of the program’s academic standards (classroom and clinical).  The PA student must be able to work with and cooperate with faculty, students, staff, preceptors, healthcare professionals, the public and employees at all levels.  The PA student must be capable of developing constructive and cooperative working relationship with others.  They must be capable of working directly with the public.  Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the PA education process.

Physical Demands:

The U.S. Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) defines the physical demands strength rating as the estimated overall strength requirement of the job. It represents the strength requirements, which are considered to be important for average, successful work performance.  The strength rating is expressed by one of five terms and the PA profession is considered (L), light work.  The PA student must possess the physical ability to learn and implement the various technical skills required by the program.  The PA student must possess an adequate range of body motion and mobility, with or without accommodation to perform the following essential functions:  prolonged periods of sitting and/or standing, occasional bending and stooping and the ability to lift and carry books and other items such as medical instruments weighing up to ten (10) pounds with or without accommodation. They must be able to exert up to twenty (20) pounds of force occasionally, and/or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, and/or a negligible amount of force constantly (constantly is defined as an activity or condition that exists 2/3 or more of the time) to lift, carry, push or pull or otherwise move objects including the human body.  Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for sedentary work. Light work requires walking or standing to a significant degree but may also involve sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Ability to Practice Medicine:

The U.S. Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) for Physician Assistants defines the general educational development (GED) and strength required of the physician assistant for satisfactory job performance.  The PA student must demonstrate the ability to practice medicine.  The ability to practice medicine is to be construed to include all of the following:

  • The cognitive capacity to make appropriate clinical diagnoses and exercise reasonable medical judgments and to learn and keep abreast of medical developments;
  • The ability to apply principles of logical or scientific thinking, to define problems, collect data, establish facts and draw valid conclusions. Interpret an extensive variety of technical instructions in mathematical or diagrammatic form.  Deal with several abstract and concrete variables. (DOT Reasoning Development Level 05);
  • The ability to communicate those judgments and medical information to patients and other healthcare providers with or without the use of aids or devices, such as a voice amplifier and;
  • The physical and mental capability to fully perform medical tasks such as physical examinations, surgical procedures, laboratory procedures and other technical skills without limitations, with or without the use of simple aids or devices, such as corrective lenses or hearing aids.


1.  U.S. Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) – Physician Assistant (Revised May 26, 2003)  (Revised August 20, 2015)

2.  U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Handbook 2016 edition –Physician Assistant (updated 2020)

Reviewed and Approved 04/17/17 by the Office of Disability Resources-Educational Services for Students

Updated 01/15/19 by Cindy Lord, PA Program Director

Updated 01/15/20 by Cindy Lord, PA Program Director

Updated 05/01/21 by Cindy Lord, PA Program Director

CODE: 079.364-018 
Provides health care services to patients under direction and responsibility of physician: Examines patient, performs comprehensive physical examination, and compiles patient medical data, including health history and results of physical examination. Administers or orders diagnostic tests, such as x ray, electrocardiogram, and laboratory tests, and interprets test results for deviations from normal. Performs therapeutic procedures, such as injections, immunizations, suturing and wound care, and managing infection. Develops and implements patient management plans, records progress notes, and assists in provision of continuity of care. Instructs and counsels patients regarding compliance with prescribed therapeutic regimens, normal growth and development, family planning, emotional problems of daily living, and health maintenance. May have training in particular medical specialty and be designated Anesthesiologist Assistant (medical ser.) or Surgeon Assistant (medical ser.). 
GOE: 10.02.01 STRENGTH: L GED: R5 M4 L5 SVP: 7 DLU: 89 

Dictionary of Occupational Titles 
Appendix C: Components of the Definition Trailer


II.  SPECIFIC VOCATIONAL PREPARATION (SVP)-scale of 1 to 9 with 1 being short and 9 being over 10 years

III.  GENERAL EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (GED)-scale of 1 to 6 with 1 being minimal and 6 being maximum

  • Reasoning Development (R)
  • Mathematical Development (M)
  • Language Development (L)

IV.  Physical Demands/Strength Rating

  • Strength- Sedentary work (S)
  • Light work (L)
  • Medium work (M)
  • Heavy work (H)
  • Very heavy work (V)

V.  GUIDE FOR OCCUPATIONAL EXPLORATION (GOE) - guide for interests, aptitudes, entry level preparation and other traits required for successful performance in various occupations.

Reviewed and Updated by PA Program 05/01/2021