Dismissals Over Academic Progression—Physician’s Assistants

Dismissals Over Academic Progression—Physician’s Assistants

Becoming a physician assistant (PA) is a grueling, challenging journey, requiring countless hours of study, coursework, and clinical experience. The PA profession maintains rigorous standards for entry, graduation, and academic progression, ensuring that each graduate is equipped with the necessary competencies to provide the best possible care to their patients. However, even the most highly qualified students may find themselves struggling to keep pace with the demands of their programs while maintaining the minimum grades required to graduate. At Spodek Law Group, we understand the immense pressure facing PA students, and we’re here to help you protect your interests and your career.

Attorney Todd Spodek and his team have a deep understanding of the law and the experience necessary to handle any legal situation you may face during your academic journey. We believe that every student deserves the chance to pursue their dream career, and we’re here to fight for your rights and your future. Below, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to academic progression issues in PA programs.

What Are the Academic Expectations for Physician’s Assistant Students?
Most accredited PA programs gear their curriculum to meet the Physician Assistant Profession Competencies requirements, which are approved by all four of the major national PA associations (NCCPA, ARC-PA, PAEA, and AAPA). These standards prepare the PA graduate to meet established competencies in areas such as medical knowledge, interpersonal and communications skills, patient care, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement, and systems-based practice. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is the accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The ARC-PA sets accreditation standards for all PA training programs, and these requirements are uniform from program to program.

PA students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher while becoming proficient in all the competencies described above. At Spodek Law Group, we understand that students who fall below this GPA may face dismissal from their program if they do not meet certain academic expectations, in some cases after just one year of enrollment. This is where we come in. We’re here to help you protect your interests and your future.

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How Do PA Schools Monitor Academic Progress?
PA programs typically maintain a strong focus on supporting the academic development of their students, providing dedicated advisors to support them. At Spodek Law Group, we understand the importance of having a dedicated advisor who can help you identify ways to achieve academic success and steer clear of obstacles that might impede it. Advisors also work with faculty members to ensure that students can continue developing competencies while attaining grade-level benchmarks.

Students are required to submit academic progress reports to their advisors regularly, typically once per term. From time to time, program faculty members may also conduct reviews for students with slower-than-expected grades. In addition, student academic progress is overseen by a committee or board that monitors student progress, recommends remedial solutions when necessary, and recommends dismissal for students with repeated shortfalls. This board (often called a Student Progress Committee or similar term) usually consists of faculty members, students, or both.

What Remediation Options Are Available for PA Students?
For students who don’t make sufficient academic progress, the school will generally prescribe some form of remediation in an attempt to avoid dismissing the student. At Spodek Law Group, we understand that every school will have different policies and solutions in place regarding remediation, but generally speaking, the student progress committee will likely recommend one or more of the following:

Repeating an exam
Repeating a course
Repeating a semester or school year
Leave of absence (e.g., to deal with personal issues)

Should I Automatically Accept Remediation When Offered?
Not always. While remediation may be the best alternative to dismissal, there are times when a remediation program is helpful or even advisable. However, sometimes PA programs rush to place students into remediation without exploring better options or customizing the program to the student’s needs, placing an unnecessary burden on them in the process. It’s essential to note that students’ grades are sometimes miscalculated or assessed unfairly, placing them into remedial territory when they are not underperforming. In other cases, some schools treat remediation as a mere compulsory step before justifying a student’s dismissal, and consequently, they don’t tailor the program to be beneficial. At Spodek Law Group, we believe that a one-size-fits-all approach to remediation is not the best strategy, and we are committed to ensuring that our clients receive a customized remediation program that meets their unique needs.

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If you are facing possible dismissal from your Physician Assistant program, you should not automatically accept the remediation program offered. We recommend that you consult with Attorney Todd Spodek of Spodek Law Group before making any decisions. With our extensive experience and in-depth understanding of the law, we can help you explore other options besides remediation or modify the remedial program, so it benefits you rather than harms you. Our attorney-advisors are skilled negotiators and can help you achieve the best outcome possible.

Could Remediation Ultimately Hurt My Academic or Career Prospects?
Remediation can be a constructive alternative to dismissal, but it could also hurt you. It can cost you additional time and energy, taking you away from other academic responsibilities, and may require excessive repeat courses, making it more challenging to complete the PA program within the required time frame. Remedial courses can result in additional tuition costs and/or student debt, and often place a negative mark on your academic record, decreasing the competitiveness of your application for future jobs or residencies. Therefore, you should weigh remediation carefully before accepting it. At Spodek Law Group, we can help you evaluate the remediation offer and determine whether it is genuinely beneficial to you.

Can I Appeal a Bad Grade?
Yes, you can appeal a bad grade, and a successful grade appeal can make remediation unnecessary or irrelevant. At Spodek Law Group, we can help you prepare a compelling argument for why your grade should be changed. Each school has its own rules and protocols for grade appeals, so you’ll need to reference the school’s procedures, which usually involves filling out a form and meeting with an advisor or committee to present evidence for why your grade should be changed. If you’re struggling with the appeals process, we’re here to help. We have a team of experienced attorney-advisors who can guide you through the process, help you present a compelling case, and give you the best chance of success.

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What Happens If the School Is Considering Dismissing Me?
If the school is considering dismissing you, you need to act quickly. The disciplinary process for most schools usually involves the following steps:

Review: The Student Progress Committee will review your progress to determine whether further action is needed.
Notification: The school will inform you about your possible dismissal and the next steps so that you can respond.
Hearing: The committee will usually schedule a formal hearing where you will appear before the board or committee and have an opportunity to present your side of the story.
Final determination: The committee/board will decide whether or not to recommend dismissal from the PA program.
Appeal: You can appeal against an adverse decision before it becomes final.

At Spodek Law Group, we understand that a dismissal from a PA program could have devastating long-term effects on your academic and career prospects. You could face difficulty finding future employment as a physician’s assistant, and dismissed students often have trouble getting into another PA school.

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