University of Nebraska Medical Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Practicing physician assistants/associates present with greater capacity to lead health care teams, assume greater responsibilities for individualized patient care, lead public health efforts, and manage health care delivery systems. These increased responsibilities call for a robust and appropriate advanced education for the post-professional Doctor of Medical Science program.
Who should apply to the program?

This program is ideal for PAs seeking to further their professional and clinical expertise through building on existing knowledge, expanding clinical aptitude, and creating scholarly contributions advancing optimal health care delivery.

What degree will I receive?
You will receive a Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) degree upon successful completion of the program.
What are the goals of the program?

The program goals are to increase the level of care provided in the “acute care setting” beyond what the current PA will be educated on during their training in school. This would apply to PAs in all types of settings including: Emergency Medicine, Hospitalists Care, Surgical Specialties, Peri-operative patient care, ICU/CCU/NICU/PICU, Etc. The program is also intended for any PA looking to advance their role in administration or research settings.

How do I know online learning is right for me?

University of Nebraska online courses offer the same quality as you would expect from a leading university. Students find the experience to be convenient, flexible, and high quality.

Students who have never taken a course online may be surprised to find that the rigor, depth of information and time demands are like those in a traditional classroom. To be successful, online students should expect to spend approximately 9-12 hours per week, per course, studying and completing assignments.

Since communication with instructors and classmates is often via e-mail, discussion groups and chat sessions, students who achieve optimal success and satisfaction with online courses are those who enjoy writing and engagement with their instructor and classmates. Successful online students tend to be highly motivated and self-disciplined in arranging time for studying and completing assignments in a timely manner. Online students also need a solid set of basic computer skills (e.g. downloading and installing software, using e-mail and web browsers) and should be willing to use our support services when needed.

What is an online course like?

Online courses allow you to attend class virtually from anywhere there is internet access – at home, at school, or at the library. Most courses follow a traditional semester schedule, with a fixed beginning and end date.

Although some courses require you to be online at a specific time (synchronous), most allow you to choose (asynchronous) when you want to participate in the course. The instructor develops the curriculum, conducts the class, gives assignments, answers questions, leads discussions and assigns grades. Students are expected to begin the first week of class and work regularly throughout the semester. Online courses are often highly interactive with faculty and students communicating through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups.

The Doctor of Medical Science program will use the learning management system, CANVAS.

Must I pay the entire amount at one time?

No. You will pay as you register for classes and order course materials each semester.

How long is the program?

The program of study requires students to complete didactic courses and field placement credits for a total of 40 credit hours. Didactic courses comprise 24 credit hours and the Field Placement series of 16 credit hours. Didactic coursework is offered in a fully online format. Completed courses are eligible for continuing medical education credit as outlined by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.  

UNMC has Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters. The courses required to complete the program are listed on the Curriculum page. The full-time cohorts begin each fall semester, completing the program of study in approximately four semesters (or roughly 16 months). For those students choosing part-time enrollment, enrollment begins each fall semester with completion of the program of study in approximately seven semesters (or roughly 28 months) or less.   

What are the Field Placement courses?

Field Placement experiences are completed in the participant’s home community under the guidance of program faculty and an onsite clinical preceptor. The Field Placement course is designed to integrate the student into a customizable educational experience to include all aspects of the practice of medicine.

The course provides opportunities for the student to develop competent and proficient levels of mastery within their chosen area of study for Advanced Clinical Practice, Leadership and Business Administration, or Medical Education. The field placement courses may be customized to permit the student to earn a portion of the required structured educational components for eligibility to apply for Certificates of Added Qualifications in their field as outlined by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Who is responsible for setting up the Field Placement location and preceptor?
While the UNMC Doctor of Medical Science program will provide guidance for the Field Placement course, the student is solely responsible for setting up an agreement with a preceptor within their chosen track. Most students will use their collaborative physician or supervisor. This agreement must be finalized and verified before the start of the Field Placement courses by completing the Preceptor Agreement Form. In the unfortunate event that a preceptor must be changed mid-program, it is once again the student’s responsibility to secure a new preceptor.
Can I introduce myself to my patients as “Doctor”?
The program discourages the title of “Doctor” while in the clinical setting as this can lead to confusion among patients and other health professionals. We respect that the title of “Doctor” should be reserved for MDs/DOs in the clinical setting.
Does this degree entitle me to an independent practice?
No, UNMC and AAPA are of the same agreement and direction of the PA profession. The program encourages the “Optimal Team Practice” approach to educating PAs to meet the demands of the healthcare system.
Will my employer pay me more after attending this program?
Since the program is in the early phases, it would be difficult to assume this conclusion. The program believes that with the completion of the program you will become a more marketable PA and will open several new career paths. However, the program is unable to guarantee any job placement or salary expectations of its graduates.
Why attend this program instead of obtaining my PhD?
While the PhD has some recognition in upper management and academia, the PhD route is not a clinically based education track. Most PhD programs require substantial attention to research and the completion of a dissertation. This program believes that a “clinical based education” is better suited for practicing PAs wishing to advance their degree.
How many years of work experience must I have to be admitted?

The program will give applicants with two years' work equivalents preference for admission to the program. Current PA students are still encouraged to apply.

I’m not a PA, can I attend the program?

Unfortunately, this program is only open to PAs at this time.