School of Medicine

Physician Assistant Studies - Program

Clinical Curriculum

The Clinical Year

After students have successfully completed the didactic phase of the program, they begin three semesters (12 months) of intensive clinical training. Currently we utilize a hybrid clinical model placing a strong emphasis on extended primary care as well as shorter clerkships. Students are exposed to a variety of clinical settings and patient populations during their clinical year. Students are not responsible for finding their own clinical rotations. A reliable method of transportation is required during the clinical year, and students may be asked to commute to several sites throughout the year. All clinical placements and rotations that are arranged by clinical faculty will be assigned in a neutral and non-discriminatory fashion, without regard to a student’s gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religious preference, or ethnicity. The breakdown of the clinical year is as follows:

Primary Care

This is a 22-week rotation designed to educate the student about the diagnosis, management, and treatment of health problems encountered across the lifespan in the primary care setting. This rotation can be 22 consecutive weeks at one location or at several locations over several time periods. The experience may include inpatient as well as outpatient settings and will expose the student to different social and economic factors encountered in a community-based patient population. Primary care requirements must be met utilizing family practice or general internal medicine sites.

Women's Health four weeks

This is a four-week rotation designed to educate the student about the diagnosis, management, and treatment of common acute, chronic, routine, and preventative medical issues encountered in a gynecology and obstetrics practice. At the conclusion of this rotation the physician assistant student will be able to gather pertinent historical and physical data, obtain indicated laboratory studies, assess the results, formulate a differential diagnosis and management plan, and assist in the implementation of the appropriate therapy to the patient who presents to the obstetric/gynecology clinic.

Pediatrics four weeks

This four-week rotation is designed to give the student experience in gathering pertinent historical and physical data, obtaining indicated laboratory studies, assessing the results, formulating a management plan, and assisting in the implementation of the appropriate therapy to the pediatric patient who presents to the clinic. Students will participate in the preventative, acute, and well-care of newborns, infants, children, and adolescents.

Emergency Medicine four weeks

The purpose of the four-week emergency medicine rotation is to provide the student additional didactic and practical clinical experience in the areas of evaluation, diagnosis, and management of patients with emergent, urgent, and non-urgent medical problems that present to the emergency department. The ultimate goal of the rotation is to cover all variables in the ER training that we see—be it urban, rural, family practice offices—and give a strong base.

General Surgery four weeks

This four-week rotation is designed to take place in both the clinical and hospital setting. The course is designed to provide the student with an introduction to the evaluation and management of surgical patients in both the inpatient (surgical wards, ICU, operating rooms) and outpatient (ambulatory clinics) environments. It is intended to give the primary care trained PA an understanding of when to seek the consultation of a surgeon, what kinds of information the surgeon will typically require in order to render surgical opinion, and exposure to pre, intra, and post-operative care of surgical patients including participation in patient and family education regarding surgical diseases.

Electives seven weeks

Students choose from a multitude of specialty and sub-specialty rotations.

Rural/Underserved Rotations:

Our clinical training sites are located in a large geographic area, many of which are rural. Students must be able to travel both locally and to rural areas in order to accomplish their clinical practice rotations. All arrangements for and expenses associated with travel and living accommodations during the clinical year are the responsibility of the student. While the student's preferred geographic location is one of several criteria used to assign students, student can expect:

  1. To be assigned at least one rural clinical rotation at training sites outside of the Wasatch Front.
  2. To be required to accept rotation assignments as assigned by the program.


The objectives for each required rotation can be accessed online. The objectives are designed to be a study guide during the rotation and for PANCE. They are comprehensive and it is not expected that everything outlined in the objectives will be seen during clinical rotations.

Evaluation During the Clinical Year


Students are required to log all patient encounters on a daily basis in EXXAT, a computerized logging system. These logs allow UPAP to evaluate the adequacy of the student’s clinical encounters and the quality of clinical rotation sites. They are also used in part to determine if the student has met the clinical year requirements.

Written Evaluations

Each preceptor completes written evaluations of the student during and/or after each clinical rotation. Students also complete evaluations of the site and preceptor after each rotation. Clinical faculty reviews all evaluations.

Site Visits

Site visits are performed on each student by clinical faculty during the clinical year. This allows UPAP to periodically assess the student’s abilities and provide feedback of students’ clinical performance.

Specialty Exams

Upon completion of rotations in pediatrics, women’s health, general surgery, and emergency medicine, the students are required to complete a corresponding specialty examination. The closed-book examinations are completed online and consist of 120 questions each. Students are given 2 hours to complete the examinations, which are designed to prepare the student for PANCE.

Return Visits

Each student is required to return to UPAP for four, one-week return visits during the clinical year. Students will be excused from their clinical rotations during this time. Each return visit generally consists of lectures, written examinations, OSCEs, meetings with faculty, and clinical skill building. Students are responsible for their own housing and transportation to return visits throughout the clinical year.