Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science


Physician Assistant educator





Purpose. The purpose of this article is to determine if the characteristics of successful physician assistant students correlate with the risk factors of attrition and dropout to assist physician assistant educators in the early identification of high-risk students.

Methods. A PubMed and University of Lynchburg OneSearch literature search was conducted with the search terms “medical student,” “medical learner,” “physician assistant student,” dropout, drop out, drop-out, withdrawal, and attrition. Articles were limited to research in PA and undergraduate medical education to maintain consistency among the demographic and admission trends in medical training programs. Research on the education of other health professions was excluded to preserve the relevance to the medical model of training.

Results. Successful attributes of PA students most likely to achieve academic success have been identified. However, studies have not investigated the factors of students who fail PA school. The characteristics of at-risk medical learners associated with attrition and positive academic outcomes are multifactorial. There are no certain findings of a correlation between the characteristics of student success in PA programs and the attributes of academic dropout in medical learners, primarily due to a paucity of research on attrition of physician assistant students.

Conclusions. Numerous cognitive, non-cognitive, and demographic variables inconsistently correlate with medical learner academic success and attrition. Physician assistant education lacks research to determine the risk of failure based on the presence, or absence, of attributes predictive of success. Physician assistant educators must be vigilant to identify high-risk learners who will require increased mentoring and academic support to achieve professional competency.

Keywords: medical learner, physician assistant student, academic attrition, dropout


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