Did you know that the physician assistant program was introduced by Duke University in North Carolina in the mid-1960s? That’s why Duke remains the top school that offers this program and is proud to have produced many highly qualified PAs over the years. Today, there are more than 140 accredited programs offered all over America for those wanting to be the licensed doctor’s alter ego.
Why Become A PA?
The job pays well. A PA gets to be doctor without going through the long years of study. The work can be very fulfilling. And employment opportunities are rising. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 10-year period between 2008 to 2018, physician assistant jobs are expected to grow by 39%. The recent trend has shown a decline in medical school enrollment and a rise in applicants for PA programs.
Provided the market does not become quickly saturated, and employers welcome fresh graduates even without so much experience, the prospects are bright if you decide to pursue this health care career.
Just to give an idea as to compensation, PAs with less than a year of experience still manage to make $56,877 in annual salary. Hourly, the lower end physician assistant salary is $20.81; you can however make as much as $48.86 depending on your work setting and location. The national average range of salary for a PA is from $61,818 to $99,099. As you gain experience and should you eventually decide to specialize, you increase your chances of earning more.
Tips And Reminders
The minimum requirement today is to complete a physician assistant bachelors degree. But there are physician assistant education offered by schools that accelerate the bachelors program from the usual five years to three or four, especially if you have prior college courses heavy on the sciences. Another criteria for admission is health care experience. This will depend on the school, but the minimum is usually 200 hours of full time hands-on work.
If you’re going to be a doctor and not just play doctor, it really is necessary to know your way around a clinic just to get a feel for the workplace. Duke requires 1,000 hours of health care experience to be certain you’re serious about getting into the program. After all, admission is very competitive.
To be able to practice, you need to become a certified medical assistant. That means passing the exam of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. To qualify for this test, they require the completion of an accredited PA program. If you have a prior health-related degree, you can opt for the masters degree program.
Accreditation is awarded by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant once a school demonstrates it can provide adequate education and training for their students that meets the standard of the industry. This means looking into the curriculum, faculty and facilities utilized for the physician assistant programs.
Education And Training
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the average PA program can be completed in 26.5 months. It is divided into didactic sessions and clinical rotations. These are intensive sessions meant to produce competent and confident professionals ready for the workplace.
Classroom instruction includes subjects in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, biochemistry, pathology, clinical laboratory, health promotion, clinical medicine and medical ethics.
During clinical rotations, students make the rounds of family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry and radiology.
You can take advantage of these rotations to decide if you eventually want to go into specialization once you gain experience. Don’t forget that you can also serve as assistant during surgery and may be assigned post-surgery duties.
At the end of your education, you should be ready not just to take a patient’s medical history, but to diagnose, prescribe tests and treatments, or even undertake them yourself. Of course, everything is done under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Many are happy to be working as PA for many years, without the urge to become a licensed physician. They do, however, need the continuing medical education to retain their license to practice. They feel they are just as able to provide more than adequate patient care, using their skills and through the help of technology. Knowing they contributed to making people feel better is enough reason for a physician assistant to keep that job for a long time.