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ADVANCE Blog for PAs

Physician Assistant-to-Physician Bridge Program

Published August 14, 2008 12:29 PM by Stephen Cornell

I continue to be astounded by the amount of interest in and support for the idea of a PA-to-physician bridge program.

Our article about a possible bridge program generates enormous traffic to the ADVANCE for PAs Web site, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Makes you wonder why you don't hear more about it from other sources ...



I will be starting PA education in about 2 months and I sometimes begin to think if I would be better off going to medical school instead. I figured it is 2 extra years in school + paid residency. However, that is time I don't have, I wish there were options to climb the metaphorical ladder.

MAHAMED November 12, 2015 3:12 PM
oklahoma city OK

For any one that degrades a PAs schooling and education has no idea what they are saying. There is a mere 44 week difference (52wks in a year) in a PA and MD programs and MOST of that time is clinicals/ rotations. We are trained in the medical model just like MDs and work with respected MDs in our training. I agree that there should not be a significant amount of time taken away from the schooling to be an MD but there should be some credit given to the lower level classes and clinicals that we have already completed. Especially if you are a seasoned PA in which you have 5-10 years of experience. A residency would also be needed but how obvious is that.

PAs that decided to become MD should be doing so because they want to further their education and be able to practice on their own. Being a PA is not a stepping stone to being a MD. But like anything else medicine is a business and some PAs might want to own their own some day. Especially for Primary Care, a bridge program with a shortened didactic/clinical phase as well as a slightly reduced residency would help the lack of primary care MDs and provide a more flexible base from which current PAs can further their education.

Shea, RPA-C December 9, 2010 11:08 AM

To Med Student,

Many schools and schooling are variable and for that matter so are med students. It is not the name of the school, or that type of student (nursing, pa, med) that is most key- it is attitude, motivation and initiative. Your rotations only take you so far and everyone must pass their board exams to practice so lets not get cocky about supervision and limitations to practice. I have helped many of you fight your way through your rotations even when you didn't deserve to pass- me a PA.

The truth is that unlike other midlevels, PAs are trained in the medical model just as physicians are. We must also undergo clinicals for two years, pass our boards on a regular basis and obtain CME to keep our licensure and knowledge base current. The difference is that while DRs specialize, PAS obtain a compressed experience that is in the ball park of 6-7 years collective education (all programs require a BS in medical /biological sciences to consider you with a very competitive GPA requirement as well) and a two year didactic and clinical program subsequently to which you must pass your board to practice and if you choose your masters another 1-2 years of schooling. We can do many things physicians do just as successfully and we do it in a shorter period of time. I love my supervising physician because the support and understanding for this PA to MD concept is amazing. Much respect to the PAs improving quality of care and the clinician to patient ratio on a daily basis!

One day you will meet a PA who will change your perspective, my colleagues surprise even me, everyday.

Ann, Family Practice - PA-C, MPAS November 21, 2010 7:54 PM

Number 1 reason for a bridge Program - For those who are tired of working your butt off running the clinic making a miserable 130k per yr while your supervising physician is reaping all your profit!!! Why not work that hard for YOURSELF!!!!

Marco, Cardio - PA September 17, 2010 1:48 PM
San Antonio TX

I don't think so. MD curriculum cannot be substituted with PA classes because the quality of PA programs are variable. It's not safe to give PAs too much authority without them gaining adequate training that a full 4 years of med school + internship + residency can provide. Think about patient safety!

Med Student September 13, 2009 9:55 PM

There is continued talk in the media about the shortage of Physicians in Primary Care, and how the shortage will continue to grow. Physician Assistants help to fill the "gap", but there are some hurdles that limit reimbursement, do not allow admitting privilages, federal regulations limiting practice ability (eg DOT physicals) are only a couple of examples. This begs the question of whether it would be more appropriate to develop a "PA to MD bridge program" to fulfill the primary healthcare deficit. There should be an exemption for the "bridge student" to enter the 3rd or 4th year if they have been practicing in primary care for a minimum of 5 consecutive years, and have the support of a sponsoring physician. The medical school should also give credit toward residency with the "bridge students" full-time employer sponsoring the "student". There are so many posssibilities to fulfill the needs of healthcare in the future, that serious consideration must be given toward a "PA to MD Bridge Program". Ultimately it only makes sense!

Michael McCleery, Internal Medicine - PA-C March 10, 2009 11:37 PM
Denver CO

Will our AAPA and similar organizations lobby the AMA or the Osteopaths for support?  I say the time is right for a bridge program. Let's do this!

Eric Elliot, Emerg med - PA December 10, 2008 4:40 PM
Augusta ME

What is the general feeling about the PA to MD Bridge program essentially bringing the General Practitioner back into practice.  In some ways, the Family Practice Specialty has done this, but the GP would not have to worry about going into a residency program.  As PA's we have been through the residency of life in practice already in most cases.  We would be getting paid a better salary for doing what we already do in most cases, and with a few less restrictions, i.e. prescribing practice, being able to admit a patient when needed, without the "approval of an MD or DO".

Another thought is to work more effectively within a specialty practice as an MD, that would benefit from the role of a GP.

Ron, Orthopaedics - PA-C, Trauma August 14, 2008 8:51 PM
St Petersburg FL

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