Before applying to the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) Physician Assistant Program, an applicant must meet the following requirements for Academic Courses, Direct Patient Care Experience, Tests, and Technical Standards.

Direct Patient Care Experience

Required direct patient care experience = 1,000 hours

Recommended minimum = 1,500 hours

Required direct patient care experience MUST be completed before submitting an application to the PA Program.

  • All patient care experiences must be clinical as opposed to custodial/administrative.
  • At least one reference from a supervisor in this setting should substantiate the applicant’s experience and performance.
  • All direct patient care experiences are subject to review by the program.
  • Most of the required hours must have been completed within the last 5 years.

The Admissions Committee is looking for direct patient care experience that will allow candidates to mature, experience whether health care is the right career path for them, and be exposed to the types of duties and functions that a health care professional provides. Although an applicant’s file is reviewed in its entirety, experience that does not involve direct patient care may not be accepted and/or not considered highly competitive.

Direct patient care experience can be obtained through a paid or volunteer experience. Each case will be weighed on its own merits. We are interested in the quality of the experience. The experience should allow a candidate to receive enough exposure to function (i.e. taking vitals, evaluating/triaging patients, bed side care, drawing blood, obtaining EKGs, etc.) in a clinical capacity that will allow them to begin to understand medical terms and interact with a wide variety of patients and clinical situations. It should also give a supervisor an opportunity to assess skills for the purpose of generating a reference.

 Examples of accepted direct patient care experiences:
  • Nurse
  • Physical therapist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Clinical nutritionist
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic
  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
  • Patient care assistant
  • Medical assistant
  • Athletic trainer (if working with injuries/rehab)
  • Exercise physiologist (in a clinical setting, e.g., cardiac rehab)
  • Optometric assistant (if not just a clerical position)
  • Patient care technician
  • Ophthalmology technician
  • Surgical assistant

The following, while valuable experiences, do not meet the requirements for direct patient care experience: Personal trainer, patient navigator, physical therapist aide, chiropractic assistant, acupuncture assistant, pharmacy technician/clerk, clinical office assistant, medical scribe, counseling, observational positions, or non- clinical related positions (housekeeping, transport, etc.). Additionally, counseling patients, consenting and enrolling patients in studies, and dispensing medication are examples of duties that do not require “hands-on” activity and are not considered direct patient care experience.

Obtaining direct patient care experience

Paid positions may be found in nursing homes, ERs, hospitals, community health centers or private physician offices.  Depending on skills, training, and medical experience, one may need to obtain certification (e.g. EMT or CNA).  CPR is another certification that could be useful in obtaining a paid or volunteer position.  It is important to find a situation where you have clinical interactions with patients.  Observational positions or non-clinical related positions (housekeeping, transport, etc.) will not be considered as direct patient care experience in the admissions process. 

Volunteer experience may also be considered if it represents a significant level of direct patient care (e.g., not just patient transport, delivery of food trays, etc.). There are various opportunities to volunteer in public or private organizations (e.g. hospitals, medical centers, homeless shelters, Red Cross).  If you were to spend a month in Haiti or Africa working as a medical assistant, assisting medical professionals in daily activities of immunization, patient exams, minor surgery, etc., this would count towards the required direct patient care hours.

PA Shadowing Hours

PA shadowing is encouraged for the purpose of ensuring an individual understands the profession and is making an informed decision but it will not be accepted as part of the 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience.


Training/ Internship Hours

Training, rotation, and internship hours cannot be counted toward an applicant’s direct patient care experience.


Still have questions? Visit our FAQ pages.


Physician Assistant Information Session Slides

View slides from our information sessions to learn more about the Physician Assistant Program.

Information Sessions

Information Sessions

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Upcoming sessions: look for information in January 2018.

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