Highly competitive physician assistant program officially open

Sign inside the renamed College of Health and Human Sciences building. Oct 25, 2019. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State now has a physician assistant program, leading to a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies. Bradley Dirks, associate director of the physician assistant program, said a physician assistant is consistently one of the top five professions in demand.

“The job opportunities in this field are wide open, and there is a huge need for medical providers, particularly in rural areas,” Dirks said. “So, K-State recognized that and started the process to bring it to this campus.”

According to the College of Health and Human Sciences website, “Physician Assistants are nationally certified and licensed medical professionals who work on health care teams with physicians and other providers.”

K-State hired Dirks three years ago to help start the program, which officially began in January, Dirks said.

“Before we could start, we had to be approved by the university and the accreditation organization,” Dirks said. “The program must be accredited in order to have students.”

Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree and meet the prerequisites listed on the website to join the program. Once applications are submitted, faculty review them and select students for interviews, Dirks said.

“This year, we had almost seven hundred applicants for this program, and we accepted thirty-six,” Dirks said. “So, this is very competitive.”

Dirks said there are three semesters of didactic classroom training and a student’s schedule is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

“We do not live by the university calendar,” Dirks said. “Because it is a unique 27-month program, it does not fit. It is 20-21 credit hours each semester. So, with that volume of information, we have a different schedule.”

According to the program curriculum, “all students enter as a single cohort in the spring semester, complete seven continuous semesters to graduate in May with a Master of Science Physician Assistant Studies degree.”

“Trying to teach someone medicine in 27 months is a staggering thing to do, so it is nonstop,” Dirks said.

Dirks said after their first year, students would have four semesters of clinical rotations. According to the website, these months will consist of “experiences designed to prepare graduates to provide medical care as part of an interprofessional team.”

“During the rotations, students will spend a month with an OBGYN, then a month with a pediatrician, a month with an orthopedic surgeon and etcetera,” Dirks said. “This training allows you to go into any specialty you want after graduating.”

Those interested in the new program can visit the College of Health and Human Sciences website and apply through the admissions page.