Physician assistant program in the works

Elizabeth Montiel-Alvarado, Campus Carrier staff writer

Currently in the works, Berry College hopes to introduce a new physician’s assistant program (PA) sometime in the future. It would be an accredited graduate program where students can aim for their master’s degree. 

Berry’s application process will be similar to many other PA programs across the nation. “Students interested in enrolling in any PA program need to have a bachelor’s degree and certain number of hours of clinical engagement.” said Reiley Carrolyn, director of the division of nursing. 

Students can also expect to encounter a competitive, rigorous curriculum. “If approved, we would look to enroll 24 initially and long term probably max out at about 40 students per year so it would be very competitive.” said Reiley. Similarly, to other PA programs it will be two years with a mix of class and clinical work. “It’s a very intensive 27-month, full time program-most programs have the classwork front loaded for the first full year and that means going in the summers and about eight rotations of clinical practical.” said Reiley.

 To apply for PA programs, students must follow the same national process. “There is one central portal, Berry, if we successfully go through the different stages of the provisional accreditation process and are approved to offer the program, we will be an option.” said Provost, David Slade. 

Although there are already plans for this program, it is a prolonged process that must be approved and inspected thoroughly by various people. “This is all a very long process, you can’t sort of take steps, you have to go all in,” said Slade. 

Since the program will be a separate graduate offer, it will also need its own area. Faculty, staff and directors will also need to be hired. As well as a curriculum and building will need to be developed. “We need to build a space for them to provide this education, it will probably be a health science building.” said Reiley. 

With a constant need for health care and medical workers, the PA program aims to aid the community in this manner. “That’s why we are starting this, because we have a need for physician assistants and others to provide healthcare within rural and northwest Georgia.” said Reiley.

According to the ARC-PA, there are 300 PA programs across the nation and only six in the state of Georgia. “We are filling a regional need, there is not a lot of competition right here.” said Slade.

Especially in the state of Georgia, there is a need for more schools with options to PA programs. Since Berry is a part of rural Georgia, this could be a factor that impacts the PA program. “One focus this program may take is having some sort of focus on rural health.” said Slade. 

At the earliest, we can expect to see this program initiated within a few years. “We are aiming for 2025 but there are many factors that could change that.” said Slade. 

The PA program could also lead to a change in our current nursing program. “We are also planning on expanding the nursing program through this process.” said Slade. 

Berry also hopes to contain a wide selection of educational programs, this including a graduate program. “For berry it is an opportunity for us to deliver on our mission in a new way that helps to build the college but also provides a need for our local community.” said Slade. 

Ultimately, with the new project, Berry and the surrounding communities can expect to see some positive change and impact with the enactment of this program in the future. “It has the potential to be very positive for Berry and for the community.” said David Elmer, department chair of kinesiology. 

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