Finding Solutions to Common ARC-PA Citations – Volume 1

scott's thoughts Oct 19, 2023

Hello readers! In a previous blog, I outlined my plans for presenting a webinar series on helping PA programs cope with the ten most common ARC-PA citations. 

As you may recall, I broke down the top ten ARC-PA Standards most commonly cited and planned to discuss in detail both how to respond to such citations and to prevent them in future reviews and site visits.

Series Part 1 was first presented in August and September, dealing with citations on Standards C1.03 and C1.02ci-iii.  I’m hard at work preparing the Series Part 2. Of course, access to the webinar’s recordings will be available to those who belong to our Members Circle.  In the meantime, however, let’s spend the following blogs covering the high points of this critical topic.

Before we begin, I must include a qualifying statement. I do not speak for the ARC-PA. The data harvested regarding the number of citations is public knowledge on the ARC-PA website. I base the elements of these webinar series and these related blogs on my 31 years of PA education experience and years of experience as a consultant. The webinars and blogs have factual content and personal conjecture combined. 

My purpose in addressing these citations

The increase in citations is a topic I feel strongly about. I have arranged this new webinar and this accompanying blog series for several reasons, arising from my many years of experience, combined with an overview of the landscape of current ARC-PA Accreditation Standards. My motivation can be summarized as follows:

  1.   I feel compelled to provide insights to faculty and program directors about current trends involving Commission actions. For those of you who have been around as long as I have, you’ll agree that ARC-PA has dramatically changed over the decades. Some of this change is only natural, as when I began, ARC-PA was still using its 2nd Edition Standards. Inevitably, progress requires updating those standards. However, things have been changing faster than ever since 2020, and the introduction of 5th Edition Standards, and keeping up can prove challenging. The Commission’s putting programs on probation is a much more common event than it used to be.
  2.   I am personally concerned about the need for more guidance given to programs and the moving target phenomenon. 
  3.   The rapid increase in the number of programs placed on probation impacts the PA education profession in what I believe is a harmful manner.

I do not intend to present a critical viewpoint of the Commission or its work. They perform an essential function. However, I think the complexity of the 5th Edition Standards has created a fallout cycle of ambiguous necessity for both sides of the issue, requiring quite specific (and potentially burdensome) data gathering, presentation, and review - and there is no standard playbook for the game yet. Let’s look at some reasons for this.

Why are C1.03 citations so common?

My following blog will address complying with C1.03 - the most commonly cited Standard. But why is C1.03 so problematic?

  1.   The ARC-PA has a very exacting and specific template that all reviewers of the Self-Study Report follow. The template is treated almost as an algorithm. In effect, the reviewers have a “checklist” of elements they seek. If even one of those elements is absent, the PA program is not compliant.
  2.   The SSR is a very high-level technical report that not all individuals have the training or skill sets to write to meet the requirements set by the ARC-PA successfully.
  3.   Many programs lack adequate expertise or workforce to ensure that their Self-Study Report completes all elements exactly as ARC-PA Standards describe them.
  4.   Site visitors will include observations if any element is not presented precisely as defined by the ARC-PA – meaning that a C1.03 citation can result from missing one component of the previously mentioned “checklist” that reviewers follow.
  5.   ARC-PA employs ten accreditation directors who were former PA educators. This allows for a much deeper dive into analyzing and documenting every aspect of the application.
  6.   Compared to 10 years ago, there is much more of an algorithmic checklist-based review process


Next time…

We will continue the Common ARC-PA Citations Series Part 1 summary by directly addressing C1.03 compliance. Citations in C1.03 can create “spillover” citations into C1.02, so managing C1.03 and avoiding citations to this standard is paramount. Be sure to join me then!


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