Section Menu

Clinical Curriculum

A number of clinical experiences are offered during the first and second year of the physician assistant program. First-year clinical experiences begin as early in the year as possible. The sites are usually within a one-hour hour drive from Des Moines.

Clinical benefits

  • Clinical experiences offer a break from the rigors of the classroom and let students apply the classroom material to the clinical setting.
  • It serves as a bridge between the first and second year.
  • The sites are sometimes free clinics or clinics serving under-served patient populations in the region. Many times, physician assistant program graduates serve as first-year clinical preceptors.

Clinical rotations

The second year of the physician assistant program is divided into 48 weeks of supervised clinical rotations. The 48 weeks are broken up into the following areas:

Family medicine

Twelve weeks of clinical experience in family practice medicine. Concepts and techniques studied in the preclinical year are applied. Development of the knowledge and skills needed to assess and manage common medical problems with physician supervision is emphasized.

Internal Medicine

Twelve weeks with emphasis on evaluation of common medical problems in adult primary care, the role of the hospital in the delivery of integrated primary care services and the specific needs of rural communities and women. Internal medicine in-patient or out-patient, women’s health, cardiology or geriatrics may be included in this rotation.

Emergency medicine

Four weeks covering initial assessment and stabilization of patients in the emergency setting. Includes experience in suturing, casting and serving as a member of the emergency response team.


Four weeks of evaluation and management of the surgical patient, common surgical problems, including pre-operative workup, first assist in surgery and postoperative follow-up.


Four weeks focusing on the evaluation, intervention and management of the psychiatric patient.


Twelve weeks in an elective arranged with the clinical coordinators. Electives might include infectious disease, dermatology, orthopedics or other internal medicine specialties.

Additional time in primary care can be completed as elective rotation time. The elective rotations can involve almost any medical specialty.

Rotation sites

Students are assigned to core rotation sites. These can be at affiliated sites both in and out of Iowa. Electives are also available throughout the Midwest at our national affiliate sites. Rotation sites can be broken into the following categories:

  • Des Moines and Central Iowa
  • Statewide affiliates
  • Rural health clinics
  • Nationwide affiliates

Rural health clinics

  • Iowa has over 100 certified rural health clinics.
  • These sites are unique in that they are federally designated health care shortage areas that get the majority of their primary medical services from a physician assistant, with physician supervision provided from a remote site.

International rotations

PA students may be able to complete one of their rotations internationally through the global health department.

We are proud of the breadth and depth of our clinical offerings and have developed a philosophy of early and regular reinforcement of the basic skills and fundamentals of the profession that are essential to the success of our graduates and the physician assistant profession.