First Advisor

Janine Allen

Date of Publication

Winter 3-10-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Physicians' assistants -- Education -- United States -- Psychological aspects, Physicians' assistants -- Education -- United States, Transformative learning



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 173 pages)


Physician assistants are medical professionals educated in an allopathic medical education model in the United States. In order to successfully matriculate, educate and graduate safe and effective health care providers in a 2-year time frame, the 4-year M.D. curriculum has been abbreviated and condensed leading to an intense, full-time cohort educational experience that taxes physician assistant students to their limits. The demanding workload can lead to fluctuations in mood and morale along with increased levels of psychological distress. This dissertation explores this under examined student experience by first introducing the physician assistant profession and the process by which it educates its members. The cohort patterns of mood and morale observed by faculty during the educational process are described using the conceptual and theoretical models of transformative learning, transition, change and cross-cultural adaptation as explanations for the observed experience. A retrospective naturalistic research paradigm utilizing focus groups elucidated the student perspective of the cohort medical education experience over the course of the didactic curriculum, and study results highlight a three-stage experience consistent with stages-of-change theories from multiple disciplines. In addition, a prominent pattern of emotional subthemes provide a window into the psychological significance of this transformative experience. A better understanding of the effects of this academically rigorous and psychologically challenging medical education process on physician assistant students clarifies opportunities for amelioration of student challenges while simultaneously enhancing the ultimate goal of developing safe and effective health care providers.


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